On the Ground: In the Footsteps of van Gogh
In June 2022, I went to Arles, Saint- Remy and other places in the south of France to make pictures where van Gogh painted. In locating myself within his landscape, I hoped that my pictures would contain – and be touched by – some of the spirit and light in his paintings. Clearly, I did not produce any new “van Goghs,” which is a good thing because I didn’t want to make copies!
Happily, what I came up with was my own take on the light and land in Provence and yet, I think, my landscapes, as different as they may be from the painter’s, still evoke something of his vision. I also believe that some of the images I made suggest the look and atmospheres captured by other 19th century French landscape painters who influenced van Gogh.
The patina and strangeness of the surface that appear in several of my images are products of a photographic tool I call “tent /camera.” I designed this device to allow me, in a periscope-like fashion, to project views of a nearby landscape directly onto the very ground where the tent sits. My camera, on top of the tent, captures a ‘visual sandwich’ comprised of the scenery and the details of the ground all at once, in one picture. And it is in this real/surreal melding of optics, photography and art history where my pictures dwell, creating, I hope a middle world – where both the expansive and the particular can reside at the same time. – Abelardo Morell