Darren Almond / Carl Blechen: Landscapes
German / English
The landscape images in this book were made over nearly two centuries: drawings and oil sketches by German painter Carl Blechen (1798–1840), who stands at the transition from romantic imagination to realist and even quasi-impressionist tendencies, and photographs by British conceptual artist Darren Almond (born 1971), whose works explore ideas of personal memory, cultural history, and time. In 1828 Blechen had departed on a lengthy trip to Italy, during which he made hundreds of drawings and found the immediacy of expression he is still renowned for. In 2014, Almond followed Blechen’s footsteps over the same alpine passes. He photographed night landscapes for his series Fullmoon as well as black and white day shots directly inspired by Blechen’s fascination for the light of the south to be found in the artist’s Italian Amalfi Sketchbook.
It is this fascination that unites the two artistic approaches, as Anna Schultz points out in her essay: “For both Blechen and Almond, the presence (and absence) of light serves as a precondition for representation which defines the picture-making process and forms their central subject as such.” Almond first staged the encounter between their different viewpoints in an exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin, and now, with an enlarged choice of images, in the present publication. Beyond their fascination for light and the places they both visited, the two artists meet in the historical awareness and the sensitivity for the passages of time expressed in their landscape images.
THE SAME PLACE BUT DIFFERENT
When Almond travelled to Italy in the wake of Carl Blechen, to take photos for his own Amalfi Sketchbook (2014), there was a double refraction of romantic approaches that permit a precise test of our perceptions. Blechen himself had been no naive romantic overwhelmed by nature. Nature, as he perceived it, had become something of a chamber drama. In his Italian views, the artist combined cultural memory with landscape settings. he was interested in the effects of mediterranean light but as he did not deny his experiences as a theatre set painter, a painting became like a stage for the light. “Proto-Impressionist”, this would later be termed. he did not know that photography was invented around this time, yet its effects were anticipated by his painterly genius, thanks to the strong impression the light of the south evidently made on the man from the north. This must have interested Darren Almond when he approached these same effects with his camera. And it turned out that the conditions – the narrowness of the valley, the influences of the weather – did not permit him to exploit the light of the full moon as he was wont to do. He was compelled to realize his ideas of differentiated light drawing the images in a different way. As in early photography, Almond was concerned to increase the intensity of light and shade within single scenes. Strong filters enabled him to use longer exposure times in full sunlight, conjuring up an unreality that recalls the moonlight imagery while it succeeds in transposing Blechen’s amazement at the light in his ink drawings into a different medium.
The surveying of the landscape, which often reflects the expanse of the world in Almond’s work, here defines a precisely limited vision with differentiated spaces and structures in black and white images. This surveying is naturally one of memory and the continuity of space as well. a reinsurance of cultural constants, a calibration of art. The place permits a new representation. The artist finds the same place in the knowledge that it is a different one.