University of Tasmania
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Re-present to reconnect: A study of natural phenomena

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posted on 2023-05-27, 06:36 authored by Munday, TJ
This research project investigated visual strategies for photographically representing natural phenomena. It sought to re-sensitise the viewer to the significance of natural phenomena through focusing attention on the detail and nuance displayed by local natural events. The project was pursued through the adoption of a static position at selected sites, to make photographic and video recordings of meteorological events unfolding over sustained periods of occupation. My efforts were eventually confined to a single site to enable more detailed observation of the fluctuating impact of wind on water. This is an aesthetic modified by variables such as wind speed and direction, tidal variation, time of day, cloud density, variation in swell pattern and the constant of local topography. My research explored the way in which choice of camera, lenses, focal length, exposure time and computer software all affected representational outcomes. Writing referenced in the exegesis includes Carl Jung , Maurice Merlau-Ponty, David Abram and Paul Shepard's explorations of the roots of our attitude towards nature; Gaston Bachelard's concept of the sea as mother figure and the art/nature considerations of Arnold Berleant and Alan Carlson. Contextually the project was stimulated by a study of the works of artists including Caspar David Friedrich, much of whose work conveys a subjective emotional response to the natural world; Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose photographic seascapes express his attention to nuance and detail; Bill Viola, whose use of innovative contemporary video explores thresholds of experience; James Turrell, who draws attention to natural phenomena with the frame and Mark Rothko, whose painted surfaces reveal a minimal number of elements contained within a limited space. I also reflected on the work of Jem Southam who constantly revisits local sites to photograph change occurring over time, and the works of photographers Murray Fredericks and David Stephenson that reveal reductive strategies. The outcome of the research is a body of still photographs and video works, depicting the impact of wind on water. The video work illustrates change occurring over time, while the still images freeze the activity and allow for close inspection of nuance and detail. Ronald Hepburn describes how the modern artist has moved away from original concerns with the imitation and representation of the natural environment, to the creation of new objects that may be contemplated in their own right, and are more expressive of the inner landscape of the human psyche. The works in the exhibition return to those original concerns with imitation of nature, and at the same time, amplify my subjective response through aesthetic choices involving framing, scale, and detail.


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