ROMANTIC LANDSCAPES: A lecture by Jon Clarkson

What is my place in the world?

Do I belong there?


Caspar David Friedrich – Monk by the Sea

white monk

Comparing it to a classical Landscape – Richard Wilson, The White Monk 1760-65

Caspar David Friedrich – Morning in the Sudeten Mountains 1810-11


How does Friedrich’s painting differ from wilsons? Colour palette, mood.

How do the painters think about religion?

Wilson seems more distant from religion than Friedrich. Friedrich is thinking of religion organising our relationship with the natural world.

In Caspar David Friedrich – Monk by the Sea – What time of day is it?

Written about as a lightless dawn. For the monk, the dawn isn’t important as it is for the pair on the mountain in the other piece.

Do you think that this place is real or imaginary?

It is a culmination of experience . Long flat horizon. Empty paintings.

Jan Van Goyen – View of Harlem 1646


Alternating pattern of light and dark, Colours lighter in the distance, more full of colour in the foreground. There is more cloud perspective than in friedrichs work. Friedrich’s is much flatter. Distance becomes flatter and more immense because there are no markers in it.


Mark Rothko 1969 – Is there still distance in this picture? Does it look like a place to you? There are similarities to Friedrich’s work. It is stark and there is a fluctuation between flatness and deep space.

There is a lot of fine detail in Friedrich’s Monk by the sea. It makes it look more like a portrait of the place. When you notice a painting has fine detail, you walk in closer to it. Having an intimate relationship with the work. The artist must be thinking about where he wants the spectator to be. The monk isn’t entirely resolved in himself.

What is the relationship between these figures and their surroundings?


Caspar David Friedrich – The wanderer above the sea of mist

The figure is taking possession of a view, dominating the landscape. He wants to be there and he is in control.

Caspar David Friedrich Chasseur in the Forest

The Chasseur in the Forest 1814

The landscape is dominating the figure here, he has no horse, he is lost and not in control. He’s french, the forest is german. Friedrich is a nationalist. German land rising up against the french invaders. Vulnerable.

Romantic Woodland circa 1824-5 by Francis Danby 1793-1861

Francis Danby – Romantic Woodland landscape 1824-5

Will nature accept us? Romantics think of nature in a more psychological way than an ecological way.


Anselm Kiefer, Varus 1976 – For Kiefer, Germany begins with Slaughter in the forest.


Marina Neudecker – Things can change in a day 2009

Models in vitrines suspended in liquid. Does the vitrine intensify the situation or distance you from it? Like a cinema screen, they encourage you to project yourself into the scene.

How does a group rather than a solitary figure alter the confrontation with nature?


Caspar David Friedrich – Chalk Cliffs at Rugen 1818 – less vulnerable, more people – However, not a strong sense of communication.


CONSTELLATION: Contemporary Art Lecture: New Forms: INSTALLATION by Jon Clarkson

INSTALLATION – installation can be found in contemporary art shows across the globe. Installation does not rely on any particular materials or working processes. Any arrangement of objects or images can be claimed as installation art.

What kind of thing is installation? Is installation a distinct artistic practice?

Carlos Bunga, Mausoleum 2012 – Improvised cardboard architectures, within Artes Mundi, which we will be going to see.


Anything arranged in a space can be claimed as installation.
Where did Installation begin?
Arguably, cave paintings in Lascaux could be seen as the first form of installation. Or Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel because they are site specific paintings and the way that people move through the space is in his thoughts. Some people also argue that Marcel Duchamp’s fountain could be the first form of installation because by existing in a gallery, it included the space around it.


Anon: The Rhinebeck Panorama c.1810 – The first panorama was painted by Robert Barker and was a 360 degree view of Edinburgh, viewed from the centre creating a more thorough illusion. Viewing it more as a 3D object/Installation.
Hendrik Mesdag – The Mesdag Panorama 1881.
Real sand/rocks/netting in front of the painting. Real environment/nature blending in with the painting. It is lit entirely by daylight which changes during the course of the day. A total art environment with no outside view.

panorama mesdag

Mass spectacle – Play Bill for Astley’s amphitheatre 1854. Panoramas were not the only form of entertainment.

(The total work of art)
The gesamtkunstwerk was an attempt to bring all the arts together in one overwhelming spectacle. The nazis drew on this idea when staging and filming mass rallies

Danny Boyle – London Olympics opening ceremony 2012 – An example of how these notions are still carried on.

Robert Wienie – Film: The cabinet of Dr.Caligari 1920 – Wiene’s film is an attempt to find a modernist  version of the gesamtkunstwerk. It draws on expressionist painting and shows the exterior world warped and twisted under psychological pressure.

El Lizzitzky – Proun Room (reconstruction) 1923. – Moving beyond painting. Changing the goal of art from the representation of the existing world to the creation of a new one.


DADAISM: Posters and slogans on the wall as well as paintings. Think of a wall as being one work of art. Put a mannequin in the international dada fair in Berlin, wearing German army uniform and a pigs head, they wanted to offend.


Kurt Schwitterz – Merzbau 1925. Built in his studio in Hanover. It can be seen as an abstract walk in sculpture. A complex and shifting narrative, not just an object. Contained drawers/cupboards where mementos were kept of friends and family. He would relay his stories while people walked around.

Marcel Duchamp – Coal Sacks 1938
1200 coalsacks were suspended from the ceiling. The viewer is invited to imagine them as being full of coal. A threat to the visitor. Part of the international surrealist exhibition, Paris 1938. Designed to overwhelm visitors. The floor of the exhibition was not even, it was covered in earth and gravel. There were rotating doors with pictures hanging on them. Coffee was roasted in the gallery and one of the surrealists has got hold of a recording of maniacal laughter. The exhibition was shown in darkness. This created an environment that stimulates all the senses not just sight. Duchamp did a piece called a mile of sting that interfered with the conventional running of an exhibition.


Yves Klein – The void, 1960
Opposite of Duchamp, Rather than filling the gallery, he emptied it out entirely. Each visitor was given a vivid blue cocktail. The drink would turn their urine blue. The work had a shared moment and a private dimension, where the artwork returns in your urine, taking an immaterial trace of the art with you.

Claus Oldenberg – The store 1961
Got a shop as a studio, made replicas of ordinary consumer goods. A messy quality to it. Limp, Inadequate and often oversized sculptures. Starts painting on the wall itself, display cases. All making up a total environment.

Allen Kaprow, words, 1962.
Active. Visitors use the words to make new poems. There are a number of record players. Visitors become activated by the environment and become an artist themselves, chaotic and unlike a standard gallery.

In the 1960s, photographic reproduction became cheaper and more widely used. Reviews of shows were accompanied by a general shot of the gallery known as the installation shot


Joseph Beuys – The Pack 1969
Collective nature of the artwork is transparent. It is clearly a single thing although made up of separate objects. Made to look good when it is reproduced in the press.


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Richard Wilson 20:50 1987
Made out of oil. It appears deep but only a thin layer of oil. The viewer has a sense of vulnerability, reflective.
Displays a material as a material but on a massive scale. An imbalance between the viewer and the work.


Olafur Eliason – The Weather Project 2003
Plated the ceiling of the turbine hall in mirrors to massively increase the sense of space. Many people lay down on the floor to contemplate the reflection above. Light is made up of street lights and water vapour is sprayed, a relational work.


Yayoi Kusama – Installation scene for mirror room 1992
Uses reflection in a more aggressive way. The box is only reflecting what is already there. She often photographs herself as an object disappearing into her environment. Protecting herself from it.


Mona Hatrum, Marbles carpet 1995
The glass marbles force visitors to walk around the edges of the room. In a similar way – in her piece Light Sentence, the moving light at the centre of this installation creates threatening shadows which tend to keep visitors towards the edge of the room.


Cornelia Parker – Cold, Dark, Matter – She’d taken away and blown up by the army and all the pieces exhibited. The material is constant, only the form has changed. Light tends to draw visitors in.

Cildo Miereles, Missoes 1987
Spectacle is not always about an end in itself. The work consists of coins, communion wafers and animal bones. This work is about the power of religion and how lives are transformed through ritual to money.


Ilya Kabakov – The man flew into space from his apartment 1981-88

How do we know that we are being shown a narrative? In these works, we are normally shown a habitable but non usable space. When a viewer is kept out of a space, we view the objects within the space and start to read them. You construct a narrative by putting together the objects that you can see.


Louise Bourgeouis – Cell XXVI 2003
These cells are more abstract that Kabakov’s apartments, but they present us with an enclosure and a sense of habitation. She makes many cells that possibly portray the idea of being trapped?


Relational aesthetics – all works of art produce a model of sociability

Helio Oiticica – Tropicalia 1967
Environments that you could explore.

What kind of behaviours are possible because of a certain work of art?

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Ernesto Neto – Walking in Venus’ Blue Cave 2001
Wants people to play with the objects he makes and have interaction with them and each other. In his work “Humanoides” 2001 – People put the odd suit like seats on and shared foolishness and laughter between them.


Pipilotti Rist – Pour your body out 2009
A social space is being created and she wants people to relax and be grounded by sitting on the floor


Lap Lamp 2005 – Lamp is a video projector. You sit on the chair and watch the video projection on your lap. Quite personal, makes you vulnerable and potentially uncomfortable

Rirkit Tiravanija – cooks food in a museum or gallery space. Highlighting the unwritten conventions of gallery behaviour. He exhibits the leftovers of a social happening – displays the dirty plates etc.

Thomas Hirschorn, Bataille Monument 2002
created on a rough housing estate. You had to get in a cab and be dropped off in the turkish estate to find out that the monument was closed. All the people could do was go to the local bar. He is using the fact that he is an artist to force people to interact. Poses the question: “what do you do with art world insiders?”

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 Felix Gonzalez – Torres, untitled (placebo) 1991
a floor full of sweets. Infact enough sweets to weigh the same as the weight of his dead lover. A memorial to them. People are invited to take a sweet and so the work has a relational quality. Also, makes you think about a piece of a person touching other peoples lives

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Ai Wei Wei – Sunflower Seeds, 2010
People walking over it, sitting on it, conversing with it and interacting with the seeds.



Berlinde de Bruyckere – Cripplewood 2013
Made out of wax… takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the environment. Interested in how the unorganic can suggest the organic. Suggests more that it actually shows and is quite theatrical

Theatricality can have a negative charge. If the reaction and actions of the viewer become part of the piece, in some way it must be quite theatrical



Caspar David Friedrich, The Sea of Ice 1823-4


Anya Gallacio, Intensities and surfaces 1996

CO EXISTENCE CRITERION – The way we behave in relation to an artwork can be used to judge its quality

Liam Gillick – Discussion – Benches 2010 – Quite happy for people to ignore his artwork


Carsten Holler, Test Site, 2006 – Slides that you can go down. You become part of the artwork.

Santiago Sierra, A 160cm Line tattooed on 4 people. 2000
Volunteers/prostitutes/drug addicts. Paid the equivalent of a round of Heroin to do this


This Lecture definitely encouraged me to think about installation a lot more in depth. When wandering around galleries viewing installations/ I tend to struggle to understand the artists intentions, what the reaction of the viewer should be or could be and why things are arranged or placed in a certain space or way. Learning about the different kinds of installations that are around, encourages me to be more open minded about them. I now understand that sometimes they can be made to convey a meaning or portray a narrative. It may be an experience that they want the viewer to have. However, they may want the viewer to form their own opinions. It may be about a physical form, or a suggested concept. INSTALLATION covers a wider spectrum that I thought and it is intriguing to me that it seems really that any arrangement of objects or imagery in a space could be considered as an installation. I think the installation world can be very clever. Some of the artists mentioned within this lecture have used minimal materials/imagery but the message is highly powerful. I wouldn’t say that this lecture has made me instantly think about creating installation but there are definitely elements within it that I could tie into my work. 


John Piper is noted for his drawings, paintings of landscape and architecture as well as abstract compositions, still life etc. In a period of around 15 years in the 1940s and 50s, Piper lived and worked intermittently in North Wales, and during his time there, he recorded the mountains of wales in a group of works that are among his greatest artistic achievements. Piper’s earliest learnings were towards abstraction, but his fascination with landscapes and architecture later dubbed him to be a neo-romantic. Piper’s involvement with abstraction and experimentation with collage, construction and assemblage of the early 1930s had a lasting influence on him. It remains a strong underlying factor in almost all of his work, and can mostly be seen as a structural basis for more graphic imagery. Like that of the other great neo-romantics, Graham Sutherland; Piper found that his work was greatly enriched by time spent in Pembrokeshire because of the areas special light and unique heritage.


He made many explorations of rural Britain throughout his life. Piper “Flirted” with abstraction and combined it with his observations. Like artists before and since, he was drawn to the visual drama of the welsh mountains, but he was also fascinated by their geology as his artists eye explored the bones and structure in many of his paintings and drawings, Piper has taken immense care to capture the rock structations, the exact placement of the boulders and the jointing of the rock faces. “Colour is the Language of the Artist” – this is particularly the case for John Piper who would make a mountain dazzle with the hues of pink, blue or gold. Piper knew that the colour of the Landscape would be affected in thousands of ways by such factors as light, time of day, year and environmental conditions like the weather. “John Piper’s painting seems like the perfect fusion of his neo-romantic poetism and the gentle abstraction he perfected in years of experimentation and travel.” – Exhibition Panel.

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The sense of experimentation can be seen in the impressionistic washes of the watercolours and in the rich complexity of his oils. These can be imbued with an intense, almost mystical glow that recalls his inspirational forbearers like J.M.W Turner and Samuel Palmer. Piper had an artistic and physical connection to the landscape around him.



John Piper had many inspirations. Obviously, the landscape itself but also influential people. At the Royal College of Art, he met Charles Mahoney, Morris Kestleman and Tom Monnington, all of whom effected a lasting influence on Piper as a young artist. He was also inspired by other artists work: Just as I am being inspired by his. To name a few, he was being influenced by JMW Turner, Samuel Palmer and Richard Wilson. During the period that John Piper spent in North Wales, he often referred to the guide books and early geological texts of the 18th and 19th centuries as he travelled the area recording the mountains. Not only did he admire their engraved illustrations, but they also provided a link to the artists of the period most admired by Piper like Wilson and Turner. It sounds like Piper lived his art and loved exploring the natural surroundings for inspiration.