In contemporary art, the genre of landscape painting has almost completely diminished. Painting itself is becoming a rather difficult area, but landscapes are a very rare sight these days. When visiting a museum for contemporary art we see conceptual sculptures, abstract or hyper real paintings, grand and imposing installations, rooms filled with flashing lights and walls covered in mirrors. The white cube has become a landscape itself, where one can wander about to see far-stretching art-filled vistas, and therefor the art of landscape paintings has disappeared altogether. The once great genre has dissolved in the entirety of an art exhibition. However, landscapes have found another way into our lives and they pop up ever more often and with more and more effect. Strong examples of this trend can be found in architecture. Our blog ‘Utopia in Progress’ spoke of architecture with striking influences from nature, organic lines and shapes and luscious gardens, both inside and outside. The planned extension of Changi Airport in Singapore features an inside jungle and is centred around a waterfall, the iconic Highline in New York has been morphed from a derelict railroad into a landscape and in car-cluttered São Paulo plans are being made to transform an elevated motorway, the Minhocão, into a much-needed stretch of greenery. Landscaping is happening everywhere. Last year Per Kristian Nygård created rolling green hills inside Noplace Gallery in Oslo and that same year the king of installation art, Olafur Eliasson, made a river flow through several rooms in the Danish Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. There are tons of other landscapes to be seen if we avert our eyes from the mere genre in painting.
New extension of Changi Airport, Singapore, by Moshe Safdie.
What does this notion of landscaping, if not happening anymore in painting, mean for our times? Landscapes are open spaces, spaces that allow us to see further than the walls of an office, the borders of a country or carefully choreographed complexities of, for example, airports. If one tends to see an interior rather as a landscape than as an arrangement of furniture, walls and floors a myriad of possibilities arises. Landscapes let us see and feel more freedom and sometimes this is a genuine freedom, at other times it is only a simulation, because the landscape goes as far as said space extends. The landscape of a carefully curated cd is limited to the start and end of the music and so is the landscape on top of the Highline or inside the Changi Airport, but the fact that the white cube of a gallery or the interior of public buildings are being regarded as landscapes comes with more creativity in terms of innovating these spaces. A landscaped airport might be much more comfortable than the long corridors filled with stressed commuters and a gallery that is filled to the brim with green hills could just give us those new insights as to how we should treat landscapes. By escaping the picture frame these landscapes might broaden our view and relax our senses in a globalised and overused world.
Per Kristian Nygård, 'Not Red But Green', Noplace Gallery, Oslo.