notes on Self-Representation in Nature

The artists of landscape selectively represent environments which move them (for example) … They are often (possibly always) moved when they feel that efforts representation help them better know what they are looking at and why they are moved.  (“why?” — an assortment of everyday answers)


Obviously, artists know their landscape because of the visual stimuli, fine-tuned by experience and context.

For example, Tim Knowles, who did the work illustrated below, participated in a project, “Scaling the Sublime; art at the limits of landscape” (Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, UK  23rd March 2018 – 17 June 2018 )


Scientists also know “landscapes” by means of qualities not  so easily accessible to human perception.

Seeing the invisible: Event displays in particle physics





“This artistically enhanced image was produced by the Big European Bubble Chamber (BEBC), which started up at CERN in 1973. Charged particles passing through a chamber filled with hydrogen-neon liquid leave bubbles along their paths (Image: BEBC)”




Often naturalists of the 19th century professed their interest in “God’s works” was to “better know the mind of god.” 

(Compare to the cosmologist, Stephan Hawking’s famous comment, “… in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist [if] we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would know the mind of God.” –from Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays 1993)



And photographs?  At almost every scenic pull-off driving through the country there are more or less tourists taking photos. Some are occasional, other obsessive.  Now that photography is widely accessible and enthusiastically undertaken: WHY do we do it? 

1. Because it makes me feel something

2. To hold on to memories

3. To learn to see

4. To tell a story

HOLISM?   AND There’s another idea that seems to be neglected–not just for photos, but all art–the more deeply involved we become (speaking for myself) the more a sense of “empathy” is evoked– becoming one with your medium, your subject, and your abilities to see and represent.   (16 November 2021).   (Painters: do you grind your own pigments, stretch your own canvas, make your own brushes … live in a landscape (As did the artists of the Sung Dynasty) or spot it while travelling and set down your sketch pad and easel on the spot?  I think we can find many examples of ways we become involved with our subjects –and even the ways of representing those subjects–though multiple paths of knowing