Although some contemporary critics have questioned whether landscape painting can any longer bear serious artistic weight, the general population, indifferent to such a claim, persists at every opportunity to be drawn to landscape images, especially with a view of the sea. People travel to the shore just to look. Landscape images are exchanged like a kind of currency. Post cards lay claim to the sublimity of where we travel, while advertisements fill magazines with dream vistas that beckon us to their illusion. It is the romantic that is sought and it is illusion that is provided.
But how can contemporary landscape be meaningful? Perhaps we should consider the convergence of the evolution of painting and the persistence of an interest in landscape. Great painters like Pollock and Rothko in the past century eclipsed any sense of place with a unified sense of space. In some ways this was the culmination of the Romantic quest to venture into remote regions. That quest had been driven by a call to adventure, to exoticism and to conquest. That pursuit possessed a cultural optimism. Landscape, except in the naivety of our dreams, no longer contains such optimism.
Now, landscape images are as much an emotional space as they are a real place. Ted Hughes has suggested that we seek landscape for "the presence of human feeling, what human feeling the landscape makes us conscious of." In my paintings of the north, though they are based on actual views of Nova Scotia, I am presenting the viewer with a poetic gateway to a kind of frontier, more emotional than actual. Living increasingly as we do in gated communities and confined by a "surveillance society," my images of nature and the remote are a lament that recognizes the lost dreams of the viewer.