When we walk around town, how do we experience the landscape around us? What do we think about it and how does it make us feel? Do we even think about it? Are we disconnected from it, or are we part of it? Or is this connection between us and the environment all around us something much harder to define?
Increasingly, our relationship with things – buildings, people, stuff, other stuff – is mediated through technology. Log on to Facebook and you will see good examples: children playing in the park, graffiti on lampposts, the London Eye at dusk.
Does this commodity the environment, objectify it? Does it bring us closer or further away? The buildings, streets and transport hubs we encounter most days of our lives are still there, but they are viewed through a new prism.
Some of these ideas and more are explored in a new exhibition by London-based artist Andy Owen at Watford Museum which opens today.
Called The Long Way Here and held at the museum’s Space2 Gallery, this installation offers us works merging paint, digital and cinematic aesthetics to ask questions about our connection with today’s suburban landscape.
Owen, who won the Daler-Rowney Prize for Excellence in Painting in 2005 and has exhibited work as far and wide as Amsterdam, Wolverhampton and Rhyl, said: “I am interested in our urban environment, the sprawling metropolises, and the infrastructure that feeds them and how we experience it all.
“I find an uncanny beauty in the suburban landscape as I traverse London and am fascinated by glimpses of spaces that are just out of reach and the ever-present neon glow.”
The Long Way Here features snapshots of the city: old gasworks, the post-postmodern architecture of the Olympic Park, vapour trails from an airplane glimpsed against the rising sun.
Owen’s way is to collect snapshots of the local landscape using his mobile phone camera. In the studio, these snapshots – reference points for the fleeting moments in which we experience things – are then digitally manipulated before being translated onto a painted surface.
The result is a heady blend: sort of romantic paintings of times past (see Owen’s work Shelter) that also look like science fiction futures or dreamscapes. In this way, they serve as fleeting memories of the environment, seen through diverse layers – phenomenology, technology, hyper reality.
The Long Way Here is on at Space2 Gallery at Watford Museum & Art Gallery from 1 November to 21 December. Free.