Today I came across this gallery in the small town of Cambria, on the central Californian coast. The gallery stocks a wonderful range of contemporary artists’ work among them the magical landscapes of Eyvind Earle. Ever since the David Hockney exhibit, the subject of a previous post, I have been on the lookout for interesting approaches to depicting the landscape and Earle’s work is certainly interesting.
A number of things struck me about Earle’s work. First, his background working for many years for Disney comes through in his work. Many of his works (depicted here as serigraphs) have an enchanting quality to them – as though one is entering the magic kingdom. Yet, in spite of this, his landscapes are inviting. They are not imbued either with fear or with sublime awe – making us admire the landscape while still creating a sense of distance, a sense that we do not belong there. These landscapes make us want to explore their magic.
Earle’s humanization of the landscape carries through in his depiction of patches of pastureland carved out of the rugged landscape as the mountains drop precipitously into the ocean at Big Sur (above). This omnipresent pasture and agricultural land is the reality of the central Californian coast and Earle does not shy away from it. He blends the rugged with the cultivated in a cohesive mix, maybe suggesting that it is yet possible for us to find that elusive harmonious relationship with the land – what today we fashionably call ‘sustainability’.
Landscapes that are more obviously created by Man are also celebrated (below).
A ploughed field ending in a eucalyptus plantation (below) probably comes close to a conservationist’s nightmare. Yet these are the realities of today’s landscapes. It is time that we looked forward to how we can harness and improve these landscapes while enjoying their magical quality. We should stop looking backwards and have conservationists trying to “restore” landscapes to match their own particular vision of ‘nature’ or attempting to return to a landscape as it was at some arbitrary point in the past.
What are ‘appropriate’ landscapes for the second half of the 21st century and beyond? I wonder. I suspect it much depends on who you ask.