Friday, January 6, 2012

A Paintable Landscape

This is another view of the Hopper from Sloan Road in a 12 x 24 inch oil.

John Berger in a fascinating essay, titled "A Story for Aesop," discusses paintable and unpaintable landscapes. The Spanish landscape is "unpaintable," he writes. "A landscape is never unpaintable for purely descriptive reasons; it is always because its sense, its meaning, is not visible, or else lies elsewhere... Paintable landscapes are those in which what is visible enhances man--in which natural appearances make sense. We see such landscapes around every city in Italian Renaissance painting. In such a context there is no distinction between appearance and essence--such is the classic ideal."

He adds, "The scale of the Spanish interior is of a kind which offers no possibility of any focal centre. This means that it does not lend itself to being looked at. Or, to put it differently, there is no place to look at it from... A landscape that has no focal point is like a silence. It constitutes simply a solitude that has turned its back on you."

The only landscape like this that I have encountered is usually the site of a natural disaster in a forest area. Or the shattering descriptions of nature that Thoreau recounts in his trip to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

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