I have long been a practitioner drawing, painting and making work, sometimes sporadically, sometimes for brief periods with intensity. I have maintained an interest in and an awareness of art and art history through reading, through the arts press and through visits to galleries and exhibitions large and small in the Uk and abroad.
This interest has been more than recreational. My interest has been informed, critical and scholarly in approach, seeking qualifications in art and art history over a protracted period whilst pursuing an unrelated academic career. This passion finally culminated in a masters degree after retirement in 2007.
1961-1966, University of London, King's College: Undergraduate (BSc), PhD Research Postgraduate.
1966-2007 University of Portsmouth: Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Principal Lecturer, Head of Department, Programme Area Director, Associate Dean Quality Assurance.
2007-2009, Postgraduate, MA Fine Art (distinction)
My art draws on my professional career as an environmental scientist, landscape ecologist and soil scientist and my understanding of the two paradigms: landscape and environment.
For the best part of 30 years I have turned my mind's eye on our environment and the landscapes through which it is perceived and have been enthralled by the complexity and order displayed by natural environmental systems.
In The Dialectical Biologist (1985), Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin sketch a dialectical approach
to biology. They focus on the (dialectical) relationship between the "whole" and the "parts." "Part makes whole, and whole makes part". That is, a biological system of some kind consists of a collection of heterogeneous parts. All of these contribute to the character of the whole, as in reductionist thinking. On the other hand, the whole has an existence independent of the parts, that is it possesses emergent properties
and feeds back to affect and determine the nature of the parts.
I also expressed similar views in 1984 & 1992 in the book Environmental Systems: an introduction
, Iain White, Derek Mottershead and John Harrison
. It is indeed the case that the representation of environment through the representation of landscape engages directly with such emergent properties
of natural systems.
Like systems models landscape paintings
are models of landscape and environment and as such are characterised by simplification, generalisation, idealisation
, and abstraction
. These are all the properties of homomorphic
(similar) models as opposed to isomorphic
(exact) representations. Nonetheless, such models subsume the depth of understanding that detail both brings and obscures. Similarly, it can be argued that landscape (environmental) art has (emergent) properties that go beyond the elements that make up the work; again, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“In short, our mental picture is a montage of images at once comprehensive in the panorama it commands and incisive in the perspective it produces.
Just as the fragments of pigment in a painting resonating individually, but responding and relating to each other, are held together by the weft and warp of the supporting canvas, so our images of environment are underpinned and supported by a framework of systems and a fabric of scientific law and principle. Breadth of understanding becomes possible without superficiality, and detailed knowledge without the isolation of specialisation.
As a way of looking at our world and as a framework for thought the systems approach is richly rewarding, but it is also undeniably an attitude of mind - some would say a philosophy.“
(White et al 1992)
Landscape in the mind's eye - B