MARCH 2018 - THIS week's PICTURE

Hurt in the Woods: photo by Malcolm Aslett

Why I like this picture is how it photographically reinvents landscape painting. That's a bold claim but I don't mean it in a grand way, just in the little, baby ways that photographs do that stuff.

If you have ever looked at any seventeenth and eighteenth century landscapes with an Italianate setting, a bit of a temple and a few small figures doodling about you are coming from the right place. I remember the word 'repoussoir' being used to describe the way the artists placed figures to move you about the painting, to go from the foreground to middle ground and perhaps background, following the sequence of forms to discover some mythical event amid the active and passive players. What the photo does in contention is have a big block of rock in the middle. That is our main focus in the work. Bits of foliage are dotted about breaking up the flatness, or slightly alleviating it. Then at top right is the not-so mythical event of a boy who has hurt his foot being treated by his mother. But the eye has to go around the perimeter. That is how our eye works in these matters. A smooth zig zag across the face of the near-square image doesn't go so well.

I didn't plan it. That is the way it worked out when I put it together. But that, I think, is it's greatest strength as an image. A modern picture of nature, blocky and impenetrable, showing its usual indifference to a small corner of human suffering. Dead leaves at the base, struggling greenery abutting the lichened rock, thirsty trees growing from the stone base. Life is struggle. Very pastoral.