contemporary art,, landscape, trees

Ian Lobb + contemporary landscape photography

January 28, 2024

In this context of the question of place Marcus Buyan’s interpretation of Lobb’s approach to his photography of a localized nature in the Black Range series is very relevant in the 21st century. He says that:

“Ian Lobb was attuned to his surroundings like few people I have met for he was tremendously attentive, tremendously awake and sensitive to the environment and the vibrations of energy that emanated from the city, the land, the sky. Imagine travelling to a small patch of earth in the Black Ranges year after year to photograph in all seasons and in all weather something that he could see and feel in that land… something any other human would not even recognise, would walk past without a moments hesitation as though nothing was there, was of no import. But not Ian. He recognised and felt the energy of that place, space.”

Buyan’s attunement interpretation offers an fruitful way to engage in smallscale and modest localized photography in the conditions of the contemporary in the 21st century with its emerging connectivity of difference. It highlights how Lobb’s photography had a different way of relating to nature than that of a dominant instrumental reason that views nature as a resource to be exploited for human benefit. Lobb’s photographs of nature in the Black Ranges was premised on being in, and of, nature rather than standing outside it gazing at it as an object, as we find in the cultural industries such as mass tourism.

Being in place (with its gathering of different elements) involves listening with the artmaking involving a state of openness towards the bush. This, in turn, suggests a situated photography as a questioning that has the form of being a mode of receptivity. A photography that has an openness, receptivity and responsiveness to the happening (or gathering) of place is one that is thoroughly attuned to place. This attunement opens up a clearing for a genuine contemporary landscape photography.

The pathway opened up by Lobb’s Black Range series for us living after globalization, which started to came apart with the financial crisis of 2008, is a form of local grassroots art-making that lies outside of the major art museums/galleries and the international circuit of biennales. It also lies outside both contemporary art market and the art museums/galleries spectacular blockbuster exhibitions that offer its audiences experiences rather than insight.

Lobb’s Black Range series as a current of contemporary art the local grassroots art-making is not contemporary in the sense of being up-to-date or fashionable. It is is not contemporary in the sense of being whatever the major museums, markets, magazines, publicity machines, and auction houses tell us what contemporary art is. It is also different to those  views that insist that contemporary art is like fashion, always changing, always refreshing itself, and as such should be accepted in its ‘dazzling instanteity’ with its acceptance of whatever seems to be the most up to date.

Cambo %x7 monorail
pink gum, bushland, Waitpinga

The pathway that was opened up by Lobb’s Black Range series can be interpreted today as that current of contemporary art that emerges from the local art making associated with artist run art places, the internet, photobooks, ‘zines, doing it yourself, loose artistic associations and collaborating with friends and colleagues.

Lobb’s poetic photographs of being in the ever changing flow and presence of nature , with its sense of being there in a particular place (an embedded locality), relates to the ecological conditions of contemporaneity. This pathway of smallscale and modest photographs of nature is a poetics that embodies a sense of what is looming ahead, and what is already on its way. The now of the placemaking photographs is not a moment of pure presence, since the now is what will be made present by the future and the past. It is a relational flux — of what is to come into what was and of what was into what is to come. 

The above photographs of the local Waitpinga bushland, which are a part of this current of contemporary art, engage with their own historical conditions. Engaged in the sense that the disappearing bushland from the extensive land clearing undertaken for agriculture and an ever expanding suburbia leaves only small, precariousness pockets of bushland outside of the national or state parks continuing to exist. This engagement with its historical conditions is what provides a contemporary landscape photography with a critical distance from the present or the times.

This, in turn, highlights that the fundamental challenge for a contemporary art criticism and art history is one that it entails recognising art’s specific engagement with the present; which in turn, requires a renewed attention to art’s place within a temporal matrix of past and future, instead of continuing with the prevalent current writing on art as promotional chat.

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