Today, our encounters with nature are mediated by the ubiquitous digital screen; within the non-places of cellphone screens, computer interfaces, etc. This dissolution of a sense of place (along with time and space) is a hallmark of modernity. Technology’s growing presence has alienated us from the the actual landscape whilst creating a virtual, uncanny version of nature via desktop wallpapers of Hawaiian sunsets, wildlife specials, Google Earth, etc. This fragmentation of reality, the simultaneous construction of new landscapes– mediated by imaging technologies– and the physical destruction of nature at the hands of techno-capitalism and globalisation results in feelings both dread and awe. This modern experience is sublime in it’s own right. Technology’s ability to instantaneously transport us elsewhere and everywhere has led to a sublime tinged with the banal. On a familiar, day-to-day basis, the sublime presents itself in the ungraspable, uncontrollable immensity and complexity of today’s global networks of power; namely, in the irresistible and ubiquitous imaging and communication technologies the international market presents to us. It is in technology’s capacity to destroy and invent anew our perception of space and time that the contemporary sublime is located.
Through the traditional mode of oil painting, I create virtual landscapes based on digital images of nature found on the Internet. Removed from their external location– and further removed from reality through manipulation software– these paintings present an unsettling, disorientating, and alien nature which resembles the glaring, artificial media screens we now inhabit. The intention is to confuse and conflate the digital and the natural, as a way to touch on the ambiguity of landscape, and to provoke contemplation on the present (and past) interactions of technology, land, and vision. By itself, the medium of oil paint already signals this entwined, seamless relationship between nature and the digital; as it oscillates between material reality– as a messy, muddy, base matter– and it’s translation into liquid light; while the painted canvas exists somewhere in between illusionistic depth and flat surface. This tension between the physical and the immaterial informs my approach to landscape painting. My work does not seek the sublime in nature, but in the structures that have destroyed it: technology, globalization, and capitalism. This sublime pull—a combination of seduction and revulsion—is represented in my depictions of nature as placeless, outside space and time. This depiction of twenty-first century landscape is both (and neither) a critique of capitalism and a surrender to it.