“Organic” in its current usage tends to be associated with organic farming, pesticide and chemical fertilizer free – the equivalent German term would be the familiar “bio” from the “bio” supermarket range. Food here is produced organically, meaning that it stays true to its biological origin. Organic is, chemically speaking, carbon-based.
Etymologically however, “organic” derives from the Greek “organikos” meaning “relating to organ or instrument.” An organic landscape is a landscape, which is organised. The natural environment surrounding us is a consequence of human activity, whether this is farming, building, mining etc. But the concept itself refers to a construction. Landscape as such is always constituted through a prior representation. There are picturesque landscapes or sublime ones. Landscape consists of a specific format, with a horizon, back- and foreground and certain distinguishable features. An inorganic landscape would be one that lacks this kind of organisation. It would somehow be free of human activity, both physically and conceptually. In an extreme sense, it would be non-biological, without animal or plant matter. It would also present a challenge to the relation we establish with it. Without the structure landscape offers, nature becomes something we cannot relate to.
The three artists GiG presents as part of the current exhibition, inorganic landscape – Stefanie Hofer, Rebecca Partridge and Miriam Salamander – work with this constructed sense of landscape, often employing traditional techniques to make its mediated nature more apparent.
To produce her etchings Miriam Salamander, first disassembles her chosen environment (in this case, the fields and meadows of southern England) into its constituent components (field, line, path, plant) to then reconstitute them in an idealised form. The etchings are both minimal and matter of fact, consisting of the least amount of mark making required to produce the landscape form.
Stefanie Hofer’s aquatints of classical and modernist gardens take a highly idealised vision of nature and manipulate it further. For GiG she has made two new prints, based on found images of the “El Cabrío” gardens, part of the larger El Pedregal development in Mexico City by Luis Barragán. The gardens were designed according to modernist utopian principles, enclosed spaces where one can retire and enjoy nature. In Stefanie Hofer’s aquatints this harmony of the natural and the manmade becomes darker and foreboding, dismissive of utopian claims.
Rebecca Partridge has a longstanding interest in synaesthesia as a means of relating to the outside world without recourse to representation. Watercolour landscapes of trees painted at a specific time and location are to resonate with ceramic abstract sculpture, producing a constellation of different stimuli. The experience the work demands is no longer bound to representation, but allows for a zone of mimetic relationality, where mimesis becomes a form of collusion with nature.
Both Miriam Salamander and Stefanie Hofer are Munich-based. Rebecca Partridge is a UK artist, currently living and working in Berlin.
Magdalena Wisniowska 2017