55 PAINTINGS, OIL ON LINEN, 46 X 106 CM
In 2002, I was awarded a scholarship from the University College for the Creative Arts for the PhD research project Separate Landscape: Non-Place, Aesthetics and Landscape on the Tōkaidō Route, Japan. The research was a combination of painting and theory of space, place and aesthetics. The practice part of the research re-serialized Utagawa Hiroshige's series of prints from 1833. The PhD project was completed in 2007.
Separate Landscape is a research that combines theory and practice through the examination of 'non-place'. Non-places such as airports, waiting lounges, car parks and shopping malls have been defined as places which lack a sense of history, social relations and identity.
As a case study, the project takes the historical Tōkaidō Route in Japan, a four hundred ninety-five kilometer road connecting the current political capital Tokyo and the old capital Kyoto. Contemporary travel on the Tōkaidō Route by bullet train and automobile provides visual and experiential examples of a journey through a series of non-places.
Since the twelfth century artists and writers have been documenting the well-known places along the Tōkaidō. The most influential of all is the series of prints entitled Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō from 1833 by a printmaker Utagawa Hiroshige. The fifty-five paintings that constitute the practice-based aspect of the research refer to Hiroshige's fifty-five prints. The paintings were executed through a method, which was popular during Hiroshige's lifetime called Tsukushi (roughly translated, serialization and variations of themes). By employing the same method, the Separate Landscape series of paintings examine the relationship between mobility, photography and landscape painting.
The written thesis critically examines the validity of aesthetics as an approach to landscape and argues for the maintenance of art as a distinct and antagonistic social space. The thesis approaches the emergence of non-place depictions by perceiving history as a diffusion of cultural discourses between Europe and Japan during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. By contextualizing 'non-place' in the historical developments of the notions of space and place, the thesis reveals different assumptions on which space and place have been formed. Through this, the thesis elucidates previously un-examined aspects of 'non-place'.
Through the combination of theory and practice, the thesis examines the notion of non-place from a cross-cultural and art historical perspective and as a result, it reveals the critical relationship between human subject and landscape.