Explorations: Landscape and the Soul
A series of artworks exploring the process of transformation from outer landscape to inner essence, reflecting aspects of the soul.
This was the theme of my exhibition in 2017. It was held at the Foyer Gallery in the Phoenix Community Centre at Newton Dee Camphill Community in Aberdeen, from 1st to 26th May 2017.
We not only see and observe the natural landscape around us, we also respond within the rich “inner” landscape made up of our experiences. How often have we had our “breath taken away” by the sheer beauty and magnificence of a panoramic view?
Our “outer” observations give us a wealth of inner experiences that are highly differentiated. These experiences, of the human “soul”, can be meaningful in informing us of aspects of the outer world that are beyond the purely physical, beyond what is recognisable to our ordinary senses.
As an Art for Health Practitioner, I am particularly interested in “processes” of transformation. These transformations take place, not only inwardly – as a result of our observations of the outer world – but also within the creative artistic activity itself. In the case of landscape, the artistic process can make visible the transition from the outer observable (naturalistic) into the inner (expressionistic), revealed in the colours, forms and motifs that emerge.
This exhibition explores that “process of metamorphosis” through a series of pictures that began with 3 naturalistic charcoal sketches of three very different landscapes.
CHARCOAL SERIES – 3 naturalistic landscapes
METAMORPHOSIS – OUTER into INNER
The initial transformation from what we observe to our inner experience began with encapsulating the “mood” evoked by each of these 3 charcoal landscapes.
OUTER LANDSCAPE INNER MOOD
A quiet tranquil Finnish lakeside SERENITY
A loud, powerful coastal storm MIGHT
A light filled ravine MYSTERY
Exploring this artistically enabled the “process” of transformation to begin. The naturalistic form was loosened and expressed through colour (pastel) – Series II.
The “outer” thereby entered into a gradual process of metamorphosis into the “inner”, deepening the experience of the mood.
The artistic process became something of an “alchemical” accompaniment, with the media chosen to suit each of the moods in further exploration. Each of the 3 pastels (Series II above) developed their own distinct direction, attempting to capture a glimpse into deeper aspects of the soul in relation to the three emerging themes.
SERENITY, a quiet, tranquil lakeside – a moment in time – became associated with the Soul quality of FEELING. Using Pastel in Serenity III and IV, the reflective stillness of the lakeside metamorphosed into a simple colour expression around the central theme of green.
MIGHT, a loud and powerful coastal storm – past time memories – became associated with the Soul quality of WILL or ACTION. Using Oil-on-paper (applied with rags), the complementary juxtaposition of green and red continued to be expressed in Might III and IV, now pared down to shapes and forms expressing movement.
MIGHT II, III and IV (pastel, oil-on-paper and oil-on-paper)
MYSTERY, a light filled ravine – imaginative and timeless – became associated with the Soul quality of THINKING. Using Wet-on-wet watercolour, a series of 3 pictures emerged forming a triptych (Mystery III); the light and warmth held in different degrees of balance by the depth of darkness.
MYSTERY II (pastel) and III – Triptych (wet-on-wet)
ESSENCE – INNER ASPECT
Through the artistic transformation, the initial naturalistic landscapes had undergone a process of metamorphosis that attempted to reveal something of the “essential nature” within.
EMERGING ON THE OTHER SIDE
But when does this process come to completion? Are further transitions possible? Such questions can perhaps only be answered by further artistic exploration and inner judgement. So each of the transformed pictures underwent a further stage of change.
FLIGHT – emerged from the essence of Serenity, finding a new form, but now changed by the process itself.
UNFURLING – emerged from the essence of Might. In this case finding its form within a motif in the plant kingdom.
FAITH – emerged from the essence of Mystery. Interestingly (and surprisingly) finding its form in the archetypal image of the crucifixion.
From the humble beginnings of 3 outer naturalistic landscapes – through a meta-morphic artistic process from “mood” to “essence” and beyond – the 3 kingdoms of nature had emerged:
- A light filled ravine – MYSTERY – FAITH (human being)
- A quiet tranquil Finnish lakeside – SERENITY – FLIGHT (animals)
- A loud, powerful coastal storm – MIGHT – UNFURLING (plants)
But what of the other kingdom of nature – EARTH itself? The Earth element is the essential “substance” of all outer landscapes. It is through the varying sculptural forms of this earth substance that we encounter landscape, imbued with varying degrees of plant, animal and human influences.
Our inner responses are determined by the way we experience that outer world within our inmost soul. It seemed appropriate therefore to complete the series with a final group of pictures inspired by the physical landscape that I see everyday living in the Scottish Borders: Pastel, Lino cut print (below) and Ink Chinese brushes.