Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mick McGinty: Slopes of Grand Teton


My problem with landscapes has always been their inescapable partiality: no matter how wide are the perspectives, eventually the frame always cuts the view. Yes, it is a self-evident limitation but, I am still having hard time getting over it, and probably never will. This kind of perception has become ingrained in my visual and essentially mental assimilation of landscapes. In a way, the incompleteness has become a part of my aesthetic belief system; there always will be a sudden stop, a violent stop that goes against the three dimensional constant flow we usually witness. Consequently, I have developed a criterion as to what makes a landscape most enjoyable: the more the artist manages to subdue the finiteness, by absorbing the viewer into what happens within the given limits, the more the landscape turns engrossing and successful. If the painting appears to ignore its own limits, and takes a life of its own -- this is when it becomes good art. But enough theorizing.

This is a rich, three level depiction. Rocky slopes populate the foreground, a line of evergreens descends in the center and another one, a parallel, is visible in the background. To balance the strong diagonals, there is a large gnarled tree trunk, accompanied by a smaller one, both taming the composition. They also provide a mental point of rest: every upright tree may meet its demise and end up like the one in the foreground. Interestingly, these two trees are colored almost identically to the stones, perhaps referring to ancient eras, when fossilizing was just beginning to occur. Back to our times, by such correlation of palette, the artist may be alluding to human interference with nature -- the mining industry -- which takes advantage of those fossils.

The accepted norm of viewing a painting is from left to right, which should have been reflected in my choice of words: "ascending" rather than "descending." However, the general sense of downward movement is so powerful here, that the the latter verb seems much more appropriate for the adequate description of this scenery. The artist forces an inversion of the accepted viewing norm, he commits a "break;" notably, this break (paradoxically) deals with precisely the subject I mentioned in the first paragraph: the frame boundaries. These are not to be considered in the regular sedating left to right fashion, but in a more experimental opposite direction. This counter intuitive quality grips the observer. Ultimately, the viewer will return to the more conventional left to right pattern, which will result in at least double the time of overall examination. Thus the artist accomplishes the goal of absorbing people with what goes between the frames rather than with the frames themselves. He makes them work for his idiosyncratic purposes rather than allowing them to establish an independent meaning. Hence he prolongs the enjoyment, and increases its value.

*Click on the image to get a wider resolution

1 comment:

ming said...

we can't see a whole landscape at a glance. a painting captures but part of the whole... fill a room with paintings of diffrent aspects of 1 landscape, and you will get the feel of a real landscape.