Doctorate of Creative Arts
Faculty of Creative Arts
Hook, R., Transforming landscape, Doctorate of Creative Arts thesis, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, 2011. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/3473
This exegesis has two main objectives, one to elucidate the paintings and prints, grouped into a relatively coherent body of work under the general title Coastal Architecture, and the other to establish a theoretical foundation and context for both the artistic production and the critical reception of the work. Two notoriously difficult and complex ideas - landscape and abstraction - are brought together in the studio work and then dismantled and examined in the writing. In the progressive exploration of different aspects of these two key terms a number of questions arise. For example, what is the relation of visual to verbal metaphor? Can abstraction be thought of outside its conventional opposition to figuration or mimesis? Can a work be descriptive and abstract at the same time? If the figure can be in the landscape, can the body be in the painting? What new experiences and meanings can be brought to the landscape genre that, in the view of many art theorists, has fallen into disuse or worse?
In order to systematically answer these questions I have looked to the writing of American philosopher John R. Searle to provide a foundation for a theory of realism that rejects the idealism and phenomenological bent of much poststructuralist art theory. I have taken a critical analytic approach to some recent ideological critiques of landscape in order to escape their pessimism and limited perspective on contemporary landscape painting. Alongside Robert Rosenblum’s celebrated tradition of the Abstract Sublime I assert a parallel, unbroken empirical tradition of 20th Century modern landscape art, both figurative and abstract, looking at some of its key breaks with tradition in Pollock and post-1970s conceptual art. The importance of point of view and bodily orientation is examined historically and then applied to the work in Coastal Architecture.
Drawing on gestalt theory, semiotics, Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwins’ concept of modality markers and John Searle’s notion of aspects in consciousness, I attempt to demystify the ‘language’ of abstraction by seeing it as a non-mysterious modality within the overall communicative matrix of painting.
In Chapter 6 I extend the discussion of point-of-view by looking at the theme of the figure in the landscape in post- WWII Australian figurative painting in relation to the more elusive notion of the body in abstract painting. Anthropomorphism in contrast to the body as a dispersed or textural presence is considered. The final chapter organises Coastal Architecture into groups and investigates the use of analogical structures or metaphors that manipulate the organic and the fabricated into new landscapes.