Landscape Sublime

by Anastasia Samoylova

The Landscape Sublime project explores the connection between the natural environment and its representation through photography. I construct temporary assemblages out of internet-sourced images that I re-photograph to produce the final works.

The popularity of nature-themed images, both historically and in contemporary culture, points to the basic human search for the experience of the beautiful and the sublime. In Schopenhauer’s aesthetic theory, the concepts of the beautiful and the sublime are explained via examples from nature.  While the beautiful calls for a calm state of visual contemplation, i.e. flowers, the sublime is experienced when the phenomenon is so intense that it might overwhelm the human individual, i.e. waterfalls or desert landscapes.

Internet imagery provides a rich ground for the visual experience of natural wonders. Many photographs distributed on image sharing websites exist not only to be seen, but are also available to be used without copyright restrictions by the online community. In my assemblages, I aim to give screen-based environments a sense of materiality; the pieces are situated between landscape and still life, representation and abstraction, physicality and the illusion of a computer generated space.  Downloaded photographs are printed out, grouped together, and sculpted into geometric shapes, then placed into a studio setting and re-photographed. The found photograph starts out as a landscape, then becomes a still life comprised of landscape images and other elements, then a visual documentation of a still life, each transformation further subverting the original image maker’s intention.

The final compositions transport the original landscape photographs beyond what we comprehend as the ‘real’, referencing the notion of the sublime in art and philosophy that the experience of the natural world, either through artistic representation or direct exposure, can transcend the reality-based perception of the senses.