A quest for the ultimate, beautiful, meaningful picture

Landscape is hot


It’s summer (in our Northern hemisphere), but that is not what makes the landscape hot–or: it’s not the only thing that makes the landscape hot. There also is a lot of interest in the landscape, including the landscape in the Netherlands. At least that is what my newspaper says. Journalist and historian Jan Blokker is my source, and his sources are several books as well as the theme of the First International Triennial in Apeldoorn: ‘Nature as artifice’. For the Dutch landscape, although enjoyed and heralded as ‘nature’ is largely ‘artifice’–and changing at that! Rightly, Blokker writes that the Dutch landscape keeps changing. What our grandparents saw, was very different from what our famous 17th century painters saw, and we we see is vastly different again. In his article (alas not [yet?] online in the NRC Handelsblad site), two pictures are reproduced from re-issues books by Cas Oorthuys–more like our fathers’ generation–and mention is made of Gerco de Ruyter–a current photographer. Now that is landscape as I like it! In one of the books Blokker reviewed, De Ruijter is characterized as someone who ‘most loves pictures that seem abstract but that are composed of recognisable elements on second view’ [my translation]. Have a look at his website to see what that means! He is the guy who invented the camera-kite and to take random(?) landscape pictures.

That made me remember one of the pictures from my balloon trip this May–not made random but very much on purpose and very much with the abstraction idea in mind. Dutch landscape, especially when shaped by humans, is a Mondriaan painting (Blokker referred to the famous painter, too) and all you need to do to make it a modern version of Mondriaan is ensure that the lines are not vertical/horizontal but have a bit of a diagonal slant. Mondriaan would not like it for it is not ‘pure’ enough, but I think that my picture here does capture the Dutch landscape, Mondriaan’s spirit, and Gerco de Ruyter’s as well. Wish he saw it!

At the same time, it is also a picture of the changing landscape in our time: the plastic on the field to protect the young crop is something our parents and grandparents would not have seen. And what about our children and grandchildren? Moreover, there is change at a smaller scale: some of the fields are still bare but the top-left bit has some beginning growth in green. That was spring arriving.


By the way, the book supplement of the NRC Handelsblad containing Blokker’s reviews opened with a tremendous picture of a volcano–impossible to take a photo like that in Holland. With a little searching I found the source of the photo and the name of the volcano, the Tungurahua in Ecuador. the photo seems to be in the public domain, so I don’t hesitate to copy it. The contrast of the lava on fire, the cold starry night, the white cloud and the black fume! Nothing abstract about it, no strange perspective, but pure nature that needs no artifice.

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