The East Yorkshire Landscape
Why go on painting in Yorkshire?
Is it possible to do anything new in the landscape genre? Most of the art world thinks it’s not worth doing anymore.
In Europe, the idea grew that painting was finished, not needed. This is because it had been replaced by something – the photograph – the pencil of nature, the truth itself. This assumes photography is modern; at least it’s only 180 years old. If one rejects the “immaculate conception” theory of photography – it came from nowhere, about 1839 – one begins to see another history.
The optical projective of nature is a view of the world from one point. It is not a human view. The camera sees surfaces, we see space.
If one begins to see that both perspective (one point) and chiaroscuro come, not from observing nature, as art history suggests, but from observing the optical projection of it on a flat surface, as I suggest, one gets a very different view of the past and of today. (Is film stuck because it just uses one camera to make pictures and is therefore Alberti’s window, which now seems to be a prison?)
It is the position I now find myself in, realising that two hundred years ago Constable would have thought the optical projection of nature was something to aim for. I now know it is not – so stand in the landscape you love, try and depict your feelings of space, and forget photographic vision, which is distancing us too much from the physical world.
David Hockney, February 2007