The Perspectives of Earth and World and World in Saskatchewan Landscape Painting
Hunker, Clinton William
The best of landscape painting draws itself from a layer of meaning in life which is rooted in specific and regional experience. The best painters are endowed with an awareness that permits them to penetrate the skin of regional experience, allowing them to disentangle the experiences that are common to all. In Saskatchewan, as elsewhere, and particularly amongst landscape painters, geopiety, "the broad range of emotional bonds between man and his terrestrial home," often provides the emotional force behind this awareness. Our feelings and responses are tied to our experience of homeland and consequently are inescapably linked to our struggles in art. In geopious terms, landscape painting of this province can be divided into two broad traditions: a tradition of earth painting which involves the contemplation of nature as a source of inspiration, and a tradition of world painting in which the landscape becomes a means in the discovery of the nature of man and the world human beings have created. In reality there are probably degrees of both earth and world encountered in any painting experience. However, landscape painters of the generation of which I am a part are perched upon a cusp between earth and world. They feel the pull of opposing tides: the compulsion to explore images and symbols tied to human struggle, and the compulsion and impetus found in the predominant tradition of earth painting which distrusts the notion of a distinction existing between the nature of nature and the nature of man. An undercurrent of fear of provincialism also lurks behind each tradition, a threat of ethnocentricity: the belief in a closed and fixed system of existence which limits the human horizon. In the discussion of landscape painting in this province the notions of provincialism and regionalism have become blurred. One is often considered the result of the other and the two terms are often viewed as interchangeable. I hope to establish that provincialism exists not as a result of regional and specific experience but out of an inflexibility within society itself. Further, even as artists attempt flight from what they perceive as the shadow of provincialism, through an abandonment of homeland, they inescapably do so from within the perspective of that homeland. Art is a process of the unfolding of the unfamiliar, a delimiting and expanding of society's threshold for discovery. Landscape painting has the potential to precipitate this process because of its close link to nature, the mother of our sense of reality and survival of our species. It is also an important force in the discovery of world, inescapably carrying with it our responses and feelings towards home.