|Hursley Hill, 2011|
Mark Edwards creatively approaches the subject of English landscape over time, as well as how that landscape has altered both in reality and as an ideal. Edwards, similar to Gainsborough both share the same love of the vernacular landscape and the desire to be immersed within it. Gainsborough’s love for landscape photography was obvious throughout his career, in the same way that Mark Edwards’ love of the genre can be seen through continuous meditation on the landscape of England today.
|River Bungay, 2012|
Edwards’ photographs, made using maps and detailed research, have more in common with Gainsborough’s works on paper than his paintings. Edwards has to discover his subject-matter rather than create it digitally – the contemporary photographer’s equivalent of Gainsborough’s constructed models. The similarities and differences between two such very different approaches to the landscape are partly the result of historical distance but also the fundamental idea of what art should be: Gainsborough chose to imagine his landscapes using a series of elements which he returned to throughout his life whilst Edwards’ is concerned with truth to nature and his emotional response to that reality. Each of Edwards’ landscapes has a great personal significance, which is intimated but never fully revealed, and which is part of an intellectual and emotional journey.
Mark Edwards has a specific order for photographing. His work is very time consuming and precise. First he spends hours examining a map of the region to find a place that has a significant meaning. After that he will visit the landscape and do research into the history of the location. He will set up his 8’’x10’’ plate camera and place it on top of a ladder – this way the view is elevated. He uses a long exposure for these photographs to capture the details so he needed a completely windless day, and he usually made his work just after dawn. Edwards work started off with uniform grey skies to make his work clinical, forensic and silent. His newer photographs, however, show a new visual shift. The sky is almost like a painting with blue skies or cloudy skies.
Gainsborough and Edwards both made use of a similar composition where the trees frame the distant city and there would be a scrubby or rocky foreground which leads the viewers eye to a dominant middle ground. There would usually be a misty landscape in the distance.
Edwards’ photographs of the English countryside are taken through a camera lens which mediates the space between the photographer’s eye and his subject-matter. Could Gainsborough’s light-box-like painted transparencies be seen as a kind of proto-photographic impulse? As both artists deliberately immerse themselves in nature, their respective artistic processes simultaneously create a remove: a space within which aesthetic and critical contemplation, and personal reinterpretation takes place. It is interesting to consider what Gainsborough might have done if he had access to a camera.