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Second Nature: Landscape 03

Two people fishing from a floating boat, cows and sheep grazing in a field, a red building and trees, and clouds in a blue sky.

Anthony Devis, Tabley House (c1770), oil on canvas, 60x90.2cm.

As an extension of our Naïve Intention program, Second Nature is a seminar that explores the degrees of consciousness after a "mechanical reproduction" of hand-made pictures. Naturally, the selected machinery is not a digital tool but our own automatic action, our unavoidable handwriting (perhaps as a shortcut for self-expression), those instinctive gestures, tediously repeated over and over again, so as to become a "deeply ingrained habit or skill." Literally and figuratively, the study is about painting painting; an exercise that employs the technique of painting as a means to wonder about painting (in a sequence going from landscape to room to still life). As part of a rhetorical tradition, we read painting as an illusion in its own right: not only as the deceptive impression of space contained on a flat surface but also as the emotional invention, almost a daydream, of an idealized foreign domain. Under the blessing of our scarce resources (somehow following Cusa's "learned ignorance" or reverting Borges's improbable figure of Funes the Memorious) we will compress the roughly two centuries that turned Romanticism into Post Painterly Abstraction. By carefully looking, reading, and repainting a collection of classical paintings, we are going to explore notions of source, mimesis, forgery, translation, and originality in its broadest sense. The depicted scenes will cover a wide range of natural landscapes, from monumental mountains to bucolic prairies, from ancient trees to ruined buildings, from the sublime to the picturesque, pastoral or primitive beauty. Moving our painted surfaces from reality to abstraction, back and forth, we will venture into the definition of a puzzling aesthetic (or rather ethical) paradigm: a profound flatness with severe outlines and a loose definition of tone and character, a tacit enigma, a silent drama; in other words, a form of inexpressive realism. By doing so, we believe, architecture will be to painting what nature is to poetry.

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