Untitled Document

Facing East: Contemporary Landscape Photography from Baltic Areas - (Curator Liz Wells)

Date: 19 April – 14 May 2004

Exhibition Type: In association with text + work

2004 Photography Festival, Poole

From the gallery, The Arts Institute at Bournemouth.

text + work underpins the current exhibition programme at the Arts Institute’s gallery. The aim is to invite critical written commentary on visual imagery in order to encourage a discourse on contemporary practice and a forum for challenging and productive debate. facing east was formed as part of the Poole Photography Festival in May 2004.

facing east, work by 16 artists, encompasses a range of aesthetic strategies and thematic concerns. Social change is marked in the landscape, for example, as logging denudes the Finnish forests, gardens are designed as recreation spaces for weekend leisure in Latvia, and the traditional Danish agricultural landscape fades into family memory as industrial scale farming takes over. Modern apartment blocks appear as exotic as Norwegian mountains caught in the play of sunlight, and everyday experience is informed in equal measure by weather reports, personal experience, and global news reporting..

Some photographers observe tensions between traditional rural scenes, and contemporary transport systems and economic scenarios: an explosion disrupts the Norwegian idyll of the isolated cottage at the foot of the mountain, hay stacks are caught in car headlights in rural Estonia, roads and service stations in Norway appear banal by contrast with emblematic postcard imagery, and wildlife is eroded as highways and industrial estates link South Sweden via the new bridge to Denmark. Nature is a source of replenishment; this resonates complexly in the relation between people and place: Finnish men take particular pride in their prowess as hunters or as wildlife photographers. Berry-picking, a seasonal activity at the heart of Swedish tradition, now provides work for ‘new Swedes’ and migrant laborers from the former Soviet bloc and South East Asia.

Others take a more abstract approach. The changing light at a Finnish lake, the movement of tidal waters in the estuary north of Riga, dark scenarios from northern Lithuania, all express something of our awe of nature; metaphoric vestiges of human presence remind us of the transience of our space within the scheme of things.

Contemporary landscape photography extends our view of our relation with land, challenges dominant aesthetics and subject-matter, questions image and identity. facing east indicates the diversity of cultural histories, social themes and aesthetic approaches which characterise the region. Liz Wells, Curator.

Artists: Mara Brasmane (Latvia); Joakim Eskildsen (Denmark/Finland); Ane Hjort Guttu (Norway); Margareta Klingberg (Sweden); Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo (Finland); Petter Magnusson (Sweden); Herkki-Erich Merila (Estonia); Riitta Päiväläinen (Finland); Marja Pirilä (Finland); Gatis Rozenfelds (Latvia); Jari Silomäki (Finland); Juha Suonpää (Finland); Per Olav Torgnesskar (Norway); Remigijus Treigys (Lithuania); John S. Webb (England/Sweden.

Liz Wells co-curated Shifting Horizons, contemporary landscape work by members of the IRIS women's photography project (UK tour, 2000/2001) and co-edited the related publication, Shifting Horizons, Women’s Landscape Photography Now ( 2000). Previous projects on land and landscape include Viewfindings: Women Photographers, ‘Landscape’ and Environment (1994). She is currently working towards a book critically evaluating radicalism in contemporary landscape photography internationally. She is also editor of The Photography Reader (2003), Photography, A Critical Introduction (1997; 2000) and has published widely on photography within visual culture. She lectures in Media Arts, Faculty of Arts, University of Plymouth, UK.

(Download PDF for full essay / text)