Nature as Emotional Experience – The work of Sergio Muscat

Nature and landscape photography is in a rut. The same style of imagery that we have seen for decades hasn’t changed. While fun for amateur photographers to engage in and learn how to execute ‘the perfect landscape’, such photography has nothing left to say. It’s time to move on. But where to?

Sergio Muscat has shown us one way – and an engaging and intriguing way it is too. In a project that he titles ‘Soul Searching” he explores a space between abstraction and nature photography.

What makes this approach so intriguing and so interesting? In a previous post about the work of Joan Miró, I said that the Miró work “makes us realize that what is maybe most important when we encounter nature and the landscape is not what we see but rather what we feel”. And so it is with Muscat’s work. When we look at this work, we can make out that it refers to some natural space – field, sea, meadow – but we can’t quite make out where or exactly what. Yet we take in the color, the motion and, sometimes, the dynamism of the natural environment being represented. The skill is in maintaining the clarity that here we are in some kind of ‘natural environment’ while depriving us of the ability to focus on what these natural spaces look like.  Rather that being told what these places look like, we are reminded of what they feel like.

In his own description of the work, Muscat draws on Kandinsky’s belief that colours, shapes and lines reflect the inner self, the emotional “vibrations of the soul”. Human interaction with natural spaces (whatever those might be – and ‘parks’ count too!), initiate these vibrations of the soul. Yet they are so difficult to reproduce in artistic expression and impossible to do so in anything that is purely representational.

Imagine standing in the middle of a meadow on a fine Summer’s day. What do we see and feel? We ‘see’ a riot of color; we see our surroundings swaying in the gentle wind; we see some movement – a butterfly maybe. We hear and smell too. But mainly we feel. We feel a sense of pleasure, maybe relaxation, maybe an uplifting of the soul at being there. Seeing is a small part of our experience. So much so that many of us close our eyes and somehow ‘take it all in’ with our eyes closed. We are enveloped by an experience.

These images start to guide us back to that experience. They do not distract us with the reproduction of irrelevant, pin-sharp detail but rather, impressionistic as they are, they allow us to drift into our own thoughts and experiences. Maybe, if we’re lucky, they will, like the meadow itself, cause us to stop looking, shut our eyes, and just feel.

6 Comments

  1. Great blog, Joe. I really think that people should try and analyze more and try and come out with concepts and ideas particularly in photography.

    We need to steer away from “Pretty, meaningless images” and leave those for the hobbyists just starting out.

  2. Thanks Kevin. I agree. the issue is whether we are guiding people sufficiently in that direction or whether the whole photography ‘educational’ experience is focused on making pretty pictures.

  3. Its a bit like that. but now most courses are geared at not only teaching techniques but inspiring and trying hard to get students to explore, create and think out of the box.

    Yet, with most students today, they are not bothered much to go into these exploratory paths. All they want is to shoot pictures without much thought and pass everything as art, as well as just blatantly copy other photographers’ work.

    Also, again most people are not interested in the right technique, which should be one of the first stepping stones in the medium.Technique is definitly not the most important part in art, but it should also be learnt.

    Sometimes its just a case of you “can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink!”

  4. I was wondering whether Sergio is Maltese. I am also an abstract photographer, and reside in Sydney, Australia. I shoot other but other genres as well.
    Regards,
    Ray Galea

  5. I was wondering whether Sergio is Maltese. I am also an abstract photographer, and reside in Sydney, Australia. I shoot other genres as well.
    Regards,
    Ray Galea

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