12 January 2012

I have been reading Katharine Harmon’s wonderful book ‘The Map as Art’, and come across the work of Canadian artist Landon Mackenzie.  Her work is beautiful, compelling, and with a fascination all of its own.


Landon Mackenzie


Needless to say, her work is about maps, and the creating of visual form from a whole range of geographic and historical information.  I find it so inspiring.  Illuminating is a quote from the book about how she views her work

“I use painting as a method to sort things out; all the input of stimuli and information I take in need an output channel to remix it and plot it down in a way that works for me – a way to grapple with some pretty large subjects.”


I agree with this entirely, as I find that I also use painting to explore ideas and bring about some sort of synthesis from the research I have done.  Its also the arena from which I can think about larger, more complex issues, such as identity, and my relationship with the landscape that makes up my world.  I’m so pleased to come across a contemporary established artist who is a painter, and with whom I seem to have something in common.



Landon Mackenzie  –  ‘Houbart’s Hope’,  2008 (?)


Her canvases are large, getting on for 7′ x 10′, which is great, and I would love to see the ‘Houbart’s Hope’ series in the flesh.  She includes so many layers of information, yet her pieces have such a sense of internal unity and a real beauty about them.  If you haven’t seen her work before, I recommend that you visit her website.


Which has contributed to my thoughts about my own response to archaeological sites.  Landscape for me isn’t the focus.  It’s the arena in which ancient people lived their mysterious lives.  The sense of  human presence in the landscape is the most important factor.  And yet, as I say that, I’m aware that the landscape is not the fixed entity I always thought it was.  The landscape around Star Carr must have changed so much since the site was occupied by Mesolithic people 11,000 years ago.  For one, it was just after the last ice age, and the North Sea did not as yet exist, Britain being still joined to mainland Europe by ice.  Star Carr was on the edge of a very large lake, surrounded by trees which were home to large animals such as red deer and aurochs.  To look at it today, the site is in the middle of a flat piece of field with little in the way of interesting features.  No lake.  No animals.  No trees.  The sea almost withing viewing distance.  How different must life have been then, and I’m not just referring to the lack of modern technologies.  The mystery of it draws me on and compels me to make work.  So I will take inspiration from Landon Mackenzie, and make further research into the place, looking at as many different kinds of map as I can find, with the challenge of using it to make work that is half as compelling and beautiful as hers.   A good challenge to have for the new year.

Carmen Mills




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