Thursday, April 15, 2010

Exploring the modern landscape

Tula Telfair, Most Approaches suffer from the Predictable Isolation of Schools, 2010.  Oil on canvas, 72h x 108w inches. Courtesy of Forum Gallery.

Tula Telfair's powerful landscapes reflect memories of her own experiences in nature. At a young age, she witnessed the vast terrain, varied weather systems, and changing color palettes of landscapes around the world. But unlike the traditional works of the American Impressionists or Hudson River Valley School, the images on her canvases don't represent real locales.

Instead, Telfair's landscapes are imagined - vividly imagined. When I spoke to her last week about her work, she emphasized how important it is that her dramatic paintings provoke strong emotional responses or memories in viewers. As a thoroughly modern landscape painter, she creates image-based work that treats both the landscape, and its' viewer, as subject. 

As viewers, we're on the right path if we feel on edge or overwhelmed, or if a painting triggers powerful physical sensations from our own remembered experiences of the natural world.

Certain landscapes have the power to remind us how ephemeral our lives are, in the context of our existence in a mysterious universe. Many of us have experienced universal moments of awe and wonder as we have looked across a mountain range or craned our necks to see a night sky full of stars.  It's this sometimes unsettling, but essential aspect of the human experience, that Telfair's work evokes. Which landscapes have had that effect on you?

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