Exhibitions

Feral Landscape

17 November - 22 December 2012

RELATED EVENTS:
Events: Edinburgh Printmakers Open Day
Introductory Classes: Feral Landscapes Family Workshop
Storytelling & Art Workshops: Where the Wild Things Play
Art Fair: Edinburgh Printmakers Christmas Multiples Market

This is our largest annual members’ exhibition where we celebrate the festive season with a themed showcase of some of Scotland’s best printmaking talent.
The prints in this exhibition explore the edgy domain of the feral landscape; where the natural and manmade, the tamed and untameable fuse.

 

We have two cats that were rescued from a farm. They are feral cats. They are timid, wary, on guard, good at hiding, a bit furtive; one won’t sit on you lap and the other will claw you when she does.

But, they’re not Wildcats. They are domesticated cats that have gone a bit wild.

Feral landscape. Land that has gone a bit wild. Nature reverts, becomes threatening, becomes dangerous, mysterious and out of control. It can be a far-flung bit of eroded farmland; it can be a former industrial site. In one you might fall off a cliff: in the other, down a mine.

It isn’t parkland urbanised by public sculpture or a marked trail; to each of us it has its own meaning, not interpreted for us by a deliberate manmade artifice that insists we look again. Take it or leave it, it doesn’t care. It’s accidental; the manmade element -industrial buildings, debris, rubbish, abandoned machinery, communication masts, shipping crates, bunkers, chimneys, energy plants - perhaps even still productive whilst around them nature takes over - interacting with the landscape, accidentally, with no thought of poetic design.

Even getting there can involve an extreme journey; on a tamed bit of tarmac complete with road markings and signposts, a deer waits to leap in front of the car, foxes’ eyes light up in the dark, the well-known road becomes unrecognizable by snow.

People have their own ways of connecting with the landscape; skiers power down mountains, bungee jumpers fall off them, mountaineers climb up them, potholers crawl inside them, fisherman stand quietly in them. Artists exploring the feral landscape observe closely, respond and see it freshly for themselves; we might draw for hours in the ruins of an engine shed on the hottest day of the year, watching an abundance of vegetation breath into it the feel of a romantic folly, or sneak into the quarry where the sign shouts “Keep out, Danger! Rock face, Steep drop, Deep water, Thin Ice, No Swimming” (ach, you’ll be fine, just watch your jumper on that barbed wire), discover bits of Roman wall concealed in miles of suburban sprawl, wander the highlands looking for bits of WW11 aircraft, spend years looking at the rusted doors of Greek pigeon houses, travel miles to photograph isolated corrugated iron churches, wonder at ship wrecks on African shores, have picnics in the ruins of a Sicilian tuna factory, enjoy beaches dotted with concrete defences and pillboxes, film seals in disused whaling factories, drive up a lonely road to photograph a graffited, crumbling  signal tower, be taken aback to find a rusted hospital bed in the remains of a barracks. It’s also the unvisited bits of urban sprawl, weeds in underpasses, disused railway paths and tunnels dripping water.

Why do we, armed only with a flask and sandwiches and some pencils head off for these inhospitable, unvisited, unloved places? What are we looking for and what do we find? The archaeology of habitation in the vestigial stones of deserted highland homes, our industrial past in the ruins of an ironworks, generations of life lived out in uncongenial places for reasons of a mineral wealth, places still occupied where their reason to be has long gone, long neglected and collapsed piers where once there was a fishing industry, or the physical manifestations and reminders of former conflicts. We wonder at the apparent wilderness of our elemental mountains, contrived by the greedy livestock of our agricultural heritage. Within these eerie places, in the patterns and the debris of life, we find nuanced clues to what once went on. We are making a reflection on time and place.

Which is all very well. But why to some people are those wind turbines balletic and to others threatening? Is nature good and manmade bad? Why do some find the encroaching regrowth of a forest menacing (what’s in there?) and some soothing (shelter)? Why do majestic pylons processing across the hills instil wonder in some and cause some to look in the other direction? Why can some get fired up by monumental industrial huts?

Do we see in the tree growing out of an ancient wall the irrepressible vigour of nature and therefore us? Or in a crumbling untended rice terrace an echo of our own decay? Is it hope, in the cleansing nature of feral beauty: the purification of snow on buildings where horrors were perpetrated, or the poppies in a field where battles had been fought?

Not for us the beauty of formal gardens or the romanticism of the wilderness. It’s us and us alone in the heat, cold, humidity, slipping down, getting lost, the ominous creaks, the worrying drip, the sound of crows, the bits of sharp rusty metal.  The edgy domain where now and then, the natural and manmade, the tamed and untameable fuse.

Feral Landscape. It’s no parkland  It’s no lap cat.

Image: Danger! - Gill Tyson, photograph (detail)

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