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Falling Away

Falling Away was shown publicly at the University of Northampton and within the research collaboration which culminated in the 2006 exhibition Common Ground hosted by Rugby Art Gallery and Museum. This group exhibition set out to explore landscape within a contemporary art context and a range of critical/perceptual relationships between painting and photography and the landscape.

Falling Away was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Arts Council England. The research was motivated by the search for alternative approaches to photographic image making and progressed the thought that photographs as documents were unable to reveal much more than the surfaces of the material world. Scientific interventions such as biogenetics are essentially unseen and would, therefore, require a different visual strategy.

Common Ground was externally funded by Rugby Art Gallery, Rugby Borough Council, The Landscape Research Group Of Great Britain and Howard Smith Paper. The exhibition explored landscape within a contemporary art context and a range of critical/perceptual relationships between painting and photography.

It examined contemporaneousness and romanticism, manifestations of constructed reality and issues of representation of nature and landscape. A 32 page colour catalogue was published which included an essay by Nancy Steadman entitled The Landscape and Its Representation In Art. A public seminar was held and included presentations from the three artists and Dr. Judith Tucker, AHRC Research Fellow from Leeds Centre CATH.

Steadman (2006) writes that the work:

“…is drawing attention to the interventions that man is now capable of carrying out to genetic material, but which remains unseen. Using the authority of photography he Langford is setting up a tension – how far can we trust what we see? The viewer is drawn into considering the validity of the image; as digital technology can be used to construct images, the authority of documentation can no longer be taken for granted.”

The starting point was to digitally capture plant root material, but to circumvent conventional lenses and light-dependent surface and texture in favour of basic structural data. A three dimensional scanner was used with support from Warwick University.

Once captured in three-dimensional virtual reality terms the basic unit of visual structure was the polygonized triangle. In this form the objects could be viewed on screen from all angles, could be endlessly reconfigured and spatially redirected. At small scale the plant structures took on the appearance of photographically rendered objects, but at large scale the underlying structure took on proportions normally associated with civil engineering and constructed environments.

The final images explored illusion and virtual reality, presenting ambiguous landscape images with objects assimilated into them which could have been perceived to be naturalistic. Alongside the wall mounted work, large scale suspended digital line drawings of the wire structures and the actual plant materials in display cases were presented.

Visitors were invited to consider sequential connections from real materials in conventional glass cases through to large scale mechanised drawings and onto electronically rendered plant roots improbably placed within natural settings from their point of origin in the landscape.

  • Steadman, N. (2006). The Landscape and Its Representation In Art. Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.