W R I T T E N · W OR K

P R O S E

SCULPTING THE LANDSCAPE

By Robert Ranieri, 2015

 

 

Diagrams with black pen trail across scraps of paper; a rock structure stumbles into view, scratched into place, and defined by thick ink shadows. With eyes half closed, a suggested sweep of a landscape setting appears on each piece of paper, at first, not specifically connected to what will have to take place outside.


In due course, one remembers how long it takes when working out of doors, the effort to position heavy material. Rough sketches are barely a whisper, compared to ones own begrudging, out at the site of activity.


With pick, pry bar, shovel, wheelbarrow, hand truck, one is reminded that enduring patience sets the mind to the drudge and dogged action needed to make rough soil and stone to conform. One soon learns to try to anticipate where stuff may end up, as to avoid tedious reshuffling. Bad weather curtails landscape design and works on canvas await the opportunity to retreat to the ivory tower, where the relative comfort of a soft chair, invite immediate repose, or even a short nap.


It is good to be surprised, when a painting may convert first impressions gained by good intentions and evolve into something strange, just by adding bands or blocks of color. A new and valid structure may be realized. Such a transformation may not occur so quickly with three dimensional work.


When much attention is given to outside work, our eyes begin to see better. With drawings still in mind, even any elevated piece of terrain can become a new base level for the raising of a wall.


In working alone at sufficiently spacious sites, it behooves the designer to take full advantage of the site. My habit has been to accost municipal 'road work' teams to solicit excavated material, soon to be trucked and dumped elsewhere, anyway. Such an abundance of fresh material may allow for a modestly large concept.


Years ago, when I first moved to rural PA from NYC in 1969, landscape architecture had not been a practice I was very familiar with. Much was learned as I began the work converting a slaughterhouse into a living space. The surrounding outside space saw many changes also.


A stream runs by the front door of the building complex that is perched fifteen feet above. Rising yet much higher, the cliffs begin their towering ascent far above house and stream.
A record breaking flood occurred in 2005, Katrina. The distant Delaware River backed up into the tributary stream, raising its water level circa twenty feet, and consequently flooding the basement level (my sculpture studio).


One benefit as mentioned from this flood, was to acquire many rocks from the destroyed section of the Delaware Canal, where mules had once towed barges laden with goods.
Once delivered, numerous rocks were too large to move with hand truck, making the need to hire a backhoe operator, a necessary expense.


Groups of paintings on canvas or wood panel, may be loosely dated Avant Le Deluge, or Apre's Le Deluge. (Before or after the flood).

The act of painting images, brings to the fore much that I am seeing outside. Also hearing. Many sounds can be traced to known sources, even without visualization.


An opportunity rests here, in that one is free to invent a coherent lexicon derived in part from associations or personal insights earned by working outside, and living according to ones experience no mater how far afield these experiences may be. Therefore sounds may induce shape or color.


Make a rectangle opening in a small piece of cardboard. This is a viewer. Or, by partly overlapping your hands, make a viewer rectangle and peer between, then pan across your view, and the layers of incidental mass, movement, and crossing patterns of shifting shadow or aspects of color observed, will never fail to cause wonder.


It becomes important to establish definite terrain levels, with a variety of Japanese maples meant to enhance gradual grade changes within each level, as ramps incline or decline.
With the insertion of elements foreign to a natural setting, the response to such action may cause a visual excitement as to stimulate surprise in the viewer. Curvilinear walls of stucco over concrete block and iron and in combination with proscribed ground level changes, may add complexity and even consternation, when certain traditional approaches are ignored. Thus the painting of specific rocks a primary red color, are meant to establish a coordinated marking pattern, and causes the eye to make both gradual and quick assessments of the spatial dynamics established within the entire complex. A stunning dissonance occurs, and one gradually recognizes that the sharp color, directs further inspection, so these chosen rocks being painted, become specific objects to be seen as portraits; an animal, torso, or head.


This approach is quite different from the much admired landscape sites by the Japanese, whose centuries old practice of finding expressive rocks, so wonderfully weathered and placed as part of a muted ensemble, are all set within an exquisite landscape.


Interjecting iron or steel constructions within a landscape setting are foreign elements that contribute to moments of contrast. Modernist design attitudes have long embraced dissonance and distortion as part of a modus operandi that will exclude nothing, when design is unfolding.


Certain landscape settings seen in diverse cultures have been graced with discreet architectural installations. A gazebo, grape covered trellis canopy, pergola, baldachino, tempietto, pavilion; or any variation of these examples, may allow a person to pause and rest, to admire the surroundings when strolling. The gazebo in use here, as seen in the photogaphs, is to be modified by extending the roof to create a more overhanging roof at the sides. A suitable patina will cover most of the structure.


About five feet above the stream at its normal flow, this gazebo permits moments of quiet observation and privacy, where under the overhanging hemlock and birch tree, and partial screening gained from a small bamboo forest, wildlife may be studied in secret; myriad types of birds, rarely seen red fox, and deer for all seasons.


A close up view of the Rostrum, with painted boulders, permits the eye to wander to the upper level where rock and steel garden elements may be seen.

 

 

Order your own prints of these works at ArtistRising.com

© 2003-2017 RobertRanieri.com

 

LAR