Use your reading list and other sources to find contemporary artists who work with landscape and a range of viewpoints and compare their approaches with those of earlier artists. Discuss your findings in your learning log. For example, compare Tacita Dean’s blackboard drawings http://www.mariangoodman.com (click on artists for Tacita Dean) with Seurat’s Landscape with Houses. The Seurat image is widely available online, for example at http://metmuseum.org
Tacita Dean’s modern landscape artwork series “Fatigues” consists of six panel blackboard pieces depicting the mountainous landscapes of Afghanistan.
These are drawings of the snow-capped peaks of Afghanistan’s mountains and the powerful Kabul River that flows down through them, made with no more than chalk on blackboard. The show’s title, “Fatigues,” refers to Ms. Dean’s own exhaustion after completing a major commission for the Tate Modern, but it also hints at a military undercurrent. For more than a decade, Western soldiers have scoured these mountains, which have therefore weighed on America’s collective consciousness. She renders them as haunting forms.
In contrast, Seurat is known for his innovative use of drawing media and for devising the painting techniques known as chromoluminarism and pointillism.
Landscape with Houses Georges Seurat (1859–1891 Paris) 1881–82 Conté crayon
Comparisons of these two painting styles point to the following: Both pictures are in black and white, but beyond that the similarities seem to be limited. Tacit Dean works in white chalk on blackboard, while Seurat works in black on white. Dean’s picture are photorealistic whilst Seurat hints at the image- it is grainy and dreamlike and the light is subtle. Seurat’s picture is small and drawn in the open-air, while Dean works in a studio, over a long period, and on a huge scale in an almost brutally realistic style. The finish on her works are quite harsh, the lines defined and the subject dramatic, cold, and harsh, with strong contrasts between light and dark.
Where the two overlap however is in the fact that the viewer is left to fill in the details lower down the pictures- the foreground is predominantly black in both cases and the viewer is tasked with believing and imagining a base to the mountains and a foreground to the houses.
I was looking at the book Contemporary drawing by Margaret Davidson this morning in which she discusses this Seurat picture at length. I learned how Seurat used bumpy surface paper to create this finish, using the way crayon skims over the bumps leaving white valleys between. The texture of the paper prevented too much detail being rendered and resulted in drawing that are both vague and subtle. To create black areas he has to press hard to push the crayon into the valleys- the degree of blackness is directly correlated with the degree of pressure applied. This tonal effect is a kind of pointillism creating different values of tone. This technique in turn prevents marks from being too detailed, requires the artist to draw form using degrees of light, and forces every crayon stroke to break into dots of B&W. This technique results also in shapes being edgeless, with forms advancing and receding from the shadows.
Another Artist discussed in the book is William Kettridge. I was encouraged to compare his work with the artists above because he also works in black and white. He uses charcoal drawings to create animated films (e.g. http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/multimedia/videos/355) in which the addition, relocation and erasure of lines creates movement. I like the way his lines and marks are very smudged and subtle in places, creating an image as much in the viewer’s mind as on the paper/film. See this link for some examples of landscape drawings from his film Tide Table (2003): http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/134.2005/