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 United Kingdom and abroad.
This interest has been more than recreational. It has been informed, critical and scholarly in approach. I have also sought qualifications in art and art history over a protracted period whilst pursuing an unrelated academic career. This passion finally culminated in a Master’s 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
. 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. Indeed, from the early 1960s onwards the natural sciences began to recognise more overtly the importance of understanding whole systems, both their structure and how they work or functions. Natural systems consist of a collection of heterogeneous parts all of which 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 properties that only become apparent when considering the whole system. These are emergent properties
and can feedback to affect and determine the nature of the parts.
Now, the complexity of environmental and landscape systems means that in order to understand them we have to build models of them whether these are physical or hardware models or sophisticated mathematical or statistical models. Implicit in the notion of modelling are the processes of simplification, generalisation, idealisation,
which allow some understanding of the organisation and function of the parts while at the same time providing an appreciation of the character of the system as a whole.
In 1984 & 1992 I published a book together with colleagues Environmental Systems: an introduction, Iain White, Derek Mottershead and John Harrison .
In the conclusion to that book an analogy is drawn with painting:
“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.”
From the perspective of the landscape painter it is indeed the case that the representation of our environment through the representation of the landscape is a process of modelling and engages directly with the emergent properties
of environmental and landscape systems. Like scientific and mathematical models landscape paintings
of our environment and reflect the processes of simplification (selection), generalisation, idealisation,
. Additionally, 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. This is as true for abstract and conceptual works rooted in the environment/landscape as it is for highly figurative photorealist works. In short, the artist’s mental picture is a montage of images at once comprehensive in the panorama it commands and incisive in the perspective it produces.
Landscape in the mind's eye - B