Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Proof of life


Semaphore Sunday - with life










Semaphore Sunday without life


The world if full of landscape paintings and has been for a long time. They are popular because most of us love a spectacular landscape in real life and it's great to have them in painting form too.

There are so many forms of landscape painting today, but they all have something in common. They either contain signs of life or they don't.

Signs of life can mean several things including humanity, bird and animal life and inanimate objects like buildings, boats and other things that indicate life is going on.

Some artists don't like sullying the landscape with humans or other things pertaining to them. Some find it too difficult to add signs of life without spoiling what they have already achieved in the landscape. Other artists purposely add life signs to enhance their landscapes.

It is a worthy study during art shows or at a gallery to see how landscapes make you feel, with and without life.

I believe there is a lot to be said for animated landscapes and there is a long history of them. Artists like Winslow Homer changed seascapes into a living drama with his fishermen battling the sea. He turned placid lakes into insights on how life was lived in the wilds. John Constable turned landscapes into calm windows of life with his addition of rural workers, cattle and cottages.

We may not come under the same category as these artists, but incorporating simple signs of life in our landscape could transform them.

Just a few birds in the sky can enhance the feeling of the expanse of sky and if you put them at different angles it can indicate a windy day. In a seascape, a white mark or two that symbolise sails, will eradicate the sterility of the horizon.

Adding figures not only adds human interest to the story of a painting, but it also provides scale and identification.

Proof of life in paintings does something important. It has a reassuring effect upon us. I have seen lots of perfect jetty paintings with not a hint of life in them, pristine beaches with not so much as a shell, grand cityscapes where no one lives and endless green pastures where no beast grazes. 

It can be disconcerting to behold our world without the heart-beat of life and so simple to fix with a few marks from a brush.


Mike Barr

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