Stepping into ‘-scape – constructing nature’ at Manchester School of Art’s Holden Gallery is an ideal setting for a man-made built exhibition on the theme of landscape.
Situated in a dense metropolis of University buildings and contested roadways, the only refuge is a park opposite the gallery. One meant to rest weary student legs and catch a glimpse of sunshine whilst eating a packaged sandwich. Probably the only source of ‘nature’ the students will see, or hear, if you count the birds tweeting in the sparse number of trees, in their entire day. Though the only tweeting I would expect to see are the likes of those on their iPhone.
This brings me back to ‘-scape’. Three significant artists including Turner Prize 2013 winner Laure Prouvost combine to bring a sense of what nature actually is. Is it a natural thing? Is the landscape a free space? This exhibition examines that more often than not it is a constructed visual medium, one tailored to fit our sense of what is beautiful or not.
Immediately drawn to the wall sculptures by Hamish Fulton, these wooden set-square and ruler based pieces are created in relation to his process of walking various mountains or routes across the world. Making no actual artwork within the landscape, he prefers to simply engage with the physicality of the environment, of which his work then reflects his direct experience. It is this sense of the journey from start to finish which returns to the gallery, take for example, ’7 pieces of wood’ a representation of his time at Mont Blanc.
Laure Prouvost continues to amaze with the stop/start shock-tactics of her engagement with nature. The main film ‘Swallow’ flits back and to women bathing naked near a waterfall to birds and fish surreally interacting with their environment. A fish eating raspberries plays with humour and what is fact or fiction. Her other film ‘For a Better Life’ is a short film which sees a herd of cows together at the edge of a field, while Prouvost sings a whimsical tune in the background. Bizarre and un-natural in many ways despite being in and surrounded by nature.
Photography of the grounds of Stourhead by Fiona Crisp shows the pretty picture of the landscape. Albeit a carefully constructed landscape. The ways she gives a sense of these constructions is through the use of scaffolding to present the exterior dynamics of a photograph of a space. The film ‘Randsfjorden’ seems to be static. Simply a room with a view. However stand there for long enough and you can see the trees move with the weight of the breeze – another constructed viewpoint.
Though this goes a long way towards setting the scene of a constructed landscape there seems to be something missing. The physicality of nature seems hollow.
Shortly following this visit I made my way to see Nico Vascellari’s ‘Bus de la Lum’ installation at the Whitworth Art Gallery. This the other side of landscape that I sense is missing at the Holden Gallery. Vascellari’s ‘constructed’ glass screens and mirrors alongside the projected scenes of the forest, give way to a natural/un-natural setting. Giving you the feeling of being lost in a forest yet obviously still in a white-walled room with four walls and high ceiling. It still conjures the magical aspects of being somewhere else with its changing patterns and sun-shifting shadows.
Echoing the themes of ‘landscape construction’. So between the two venues they seem to have the landscape covered.
|‘7 pieces of wood’ (Mont Blanc)|
-scape: constructing nature
On until 20th May
Manchester School of Art
Cavendish Street, Manchester
Nico Vascellari ‘Bus de la Lum’
On until the 18th September
Whitworth Art Gallery
Oxford Road, Manchester