l a n d s c a p e s
REAL AND IMAGINED – THE LANDSCAPE OF LATIN AMERICA
From Teotihuacan in the north (Mexico) to Machu Pichu in the South (Peru), pre-conquest American civilisations have left a lasting impression upon the landscape that serves as a reminder of their culture and struggle. It Is not just the impressive structures that remain from their great cities but the changed landscape from agricultural cultivation, Incan terracing being the most obvious example of this. Whole mountainsides criss-crossed and scarred from centuries of cultivation leave an indelible mark on the landscape and psyche.
In a celebration of life and death through festival and sacrifice, the land holds the blood and bones of the ages. It is the basic acknowledgement that the land is everything that allowed these civilisations to exist for centuries in the same places. If you take from the land you must give back to the land was their basic philosophy.
My paintings are made from images of the landscape that have been broken up, abstracted and fractured but nevertheless still retain the essence of the places that inspired them, their origins and their ongoing history. That they are both optimistic and apocalyptic is not a contradiction, only a true reflection of the potential humans have to alter their own environment and destiny. Through the nurturing of the land we have the optimism of sustainable life on this planet. Yet it is in the current climate of unsustainable economic activity, which seems hell bent on taking every last drop of life from the land, that we also have the apocalyptic vision.
The incorporation of imagery into the dense layers of the landscape allows the paintings to suggest a sense of the past, of the present and of the future. Like an archaeological exploration, the discovery and uncovering of images both real and imagined allows the viewer to identify their own footprint within the painting by following their own path through the imagined landscape. Every reading will therefore be personal, with no definitive interpretation.
The Paintings must correspond to a landscape in the mind, invoking memories of forgotten places never visited, of ancestral memories inherited from the beginning of time that are part of a collective subconscious. It is all about impressions and feelings as we glimpse only fragments of the reality of these places. The work is therefore more abstract than concrete in its interpretation of the landscape, more universal in it’s message and appeal.
Michael Pettet 2003