Curated Selection Prize 2014: Synthetic Landscapes curated by Laura Dennis
Lilah Fowler, Tests, 2013
Laura Dennis, the last of our Curated Selection Prizewinners, selects work from the directory that explores landscape in a digital age
Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, Ruth Brenner, Matt Gee,
Lilah Fowler, Robin Tarbet, Susan Eyre
After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful?
- Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
What does landscape mean to artists working in a digital age? This selection brings together a group of six artists whose work explores the artificial or synthetic as a means of interpreting landscape.
In the popular imagination scientific innovation is associated with urban or virtual environments, yet perhaps it is the natural world where the interrelationship with technology exists at a more fundamental level? Our post-industrial landscape resonates with invisible chemical and bioengineered processes, and our contemporary understanding of nature has revealed genetic coding and mathematical sequences closely aligned with computational techniques.
In different ways, each of these artists addresses concerns about the relationship between the man-made and landscape. Together they evoke a vision of the future that is at times sinister, sometimes utopian, but one that is always compelling.
Landscape II, 2010
The digital terrains created by Zachary Eastwood-Bloom are a complex synthesis of the physical and virtual realms. Landscape II is one of a series of prints created using computer graphics to represent topographical data. Calling to mind the sublime scenery of German Romanticism, the work can be considered a 21st-century continuation of the tradition of landscape painting. The landscape is a recurring motif in Eastwood-Bloom’s practice, signifying the solid state of the physical world in contrast to the ephemerality of the digital.View Zachary Eastwood-Bloom's profile
Synthetic Agate Slices Elevating, 2013
The use of materials within Matt Gee’s practice forms part of his wider examination of the artificial and the authentic. In Synthetic Agate Slices Elevating Real Crystal Geode, luminous sheets of coloured Perspex are stacked to build a plinth upon which stands a rock of agate, sliced to reveal the crystalline structure within. The similarity in the visual character of the two materials belies their true physical qualities, undermining the contrasting values attached to them. The combination of the synthetic and natural creates a sense of uncertainty in our perception of the world around us.View Matt Gee's profile
In Lilah Fowler’s Tests, created during her residency at the Joshua Tree desert, two small rocks are carefully placed upon a grid of neoprene and polyurethane squares. Further inspection reveals that the two objects are in fact made of resin in an imitation of natural forms, a delicate subversion both of our understanding of the work and the desert environment in which it is situated. The formal arrangement of the synthetic materials for the floor piece evokes architectural structures and the grid layout of modern American cities, in stark contrast with the rugged terrain of the surrounding Californian landscape.View Lilah Fowler's profile
Concrete Fossils, 2010
Robin Tarbet’s collection of Concrete Fossils is a humorous depiction of the archaeological discoveries of tomorrow. Everyday objects from the digital age have been cast in concrete, and thus transformed into the geological relics of an imagined future. But as we dig deeper, we discover the underlying meaning of the work - a comment on the pace with which technology becomes outdated and obsolete. Given the unrelenting forward flow of consumerism, the ‘fossilisation’ of digital artefacts occurs not over many generations, but at the speed at which a new device is brought to market.View Robin Tarbet's profile
In the screen print StrataGem(ii), Susan Eyres has created a mesmerising image of geological strata using items of plastic landfill. Shimmering, iridescent layers of waste packaging form the imagined rock structures and gemstones of a distant future. Despite its apparent beauty, the image is unsettling: it prompts us to contemplate the far-reaching impact of human activity upon the earth, and a legacy in which the man-made and natural worlds have become indistinguishable.View Susan Eyre's profile
Laura Dennis, June 2014
About Laura Dennis
Laura is currently studying MA Curation at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). Here she tells us about returning to her hometown to study, how her course is going and her secret interest in all things Sci-Fi.
Tell us about your background
I live in London, but I’m originally from Norwich. It’s nice to return to my hometown on the days I’m at NUA. My first degree was in History of Art, which I studied at the University of Bristol. I graduated back in 2003, and then worked primarily as a Curator and Project Manager involved in commissioning art for the public realm. I’ve held positions at consultancies such as Artpoint and Modus Operandi and my most recent role was at the art and design practice United Visual Artists.
Why did you embark on your MA?
I’ve wanted to study for an MA for a few years, but I never found quite the right time… I was still learning a lot in my professional life, and quite nervous about leaving paid employment in the arts during a recession. However, in 2012 I had a baby daughter, which meant that I was able to take a step back from working life. Alongside getting to grips with being a mum, I also started to reflect on my career and how it might develop. Once my daughter started nursery it seemed to be an ideal time to study for an MA.
Why did you choose your MA course?
There were lots of reasons! But I particularly liked the breadth in how curating is understood at NUA. And being able to work with the Arts Council Collection on our end-of-year show is a real gem of an opportunity!
What in particular would you say you have got out of your MA course so far?
Inspiration, self-confidence, practical experience, knowledge… and a growing enthusiasm for the subject.
When creating your curated selection, where did you start?
I started by looking at the profiles of some artists whose work I had seen in the past to find out what they had been working on more recently. This also pointed me in the direction of several artists whose work was new to me.
How did you come up with your theme?
Well I had really bad tonsillitis at the time… it sort of came to me whilst I had a 40° fever. I hope that this isn’t the only way I can come up with new ideas!
What first caught your eye about the work you selected?
I’m a closet Sci-Fi fan, so anything that’s got a slightly synthetic, dystopian, future-noir feel about it is going to appeal to me.
What has winning the curated selection prize meant to you?
I’m thrilled to have won this award – I’m delighted that the selection panel thought that my curatorial ideas would appeal to the Axisweb community, and I also feel more confident about my potential as a future curator.
And finally, what do you think the role of the curator is?
Oh, that’s simple: to share.
About the Curated Selection Prize 2014
Earlier this year, we asked MA Curating, History of Art and Critical Writing students from across the country to enter our Curated Selection Prize. The brief was to take a look at the Axisweb directory and curate an online exhibition for the website. To enter they had to select a theme, find six art works connected to that theme and write up their choice for our features section.
The three winners are:
MA Art Gallery & Museum Studies, University of Manchester
MA Curation, Norwich University of the Arts (NUA)
MA History of Art and Design, Birmingham City University
They have been awarded £300, one year’s Art Professional Membership and their selection will be published on Axisweb.
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