Collecting the Landscape
On 7 March 2013, Artspace hosted the opening of Landi Raubenheimer’s debut solo exhibition titled Collecting the landscape. Prof. Federico Freschi, Executive Dean at the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture was opening speaker.
Raubenheimer explores the tradition of landscape art in her latest body of work. This young artist investigates the Johannesburg landscape in a contemporary manner, through photographs, paper pulp collages and found objects cast in resin. The colour palette of the city, burnt oranges and blues, which reflect the brick work of Johannesburg, are brought alive in Raubenheimer’s mosaic-like paper pulp pieces. Raubenheimer explains: “I make the Johannesburg landscape my own and take it home with me, a keepsake”.
Johannesburg’s legacy is embodied in smoke stacks and geometric buildings and yet the city is the largest man-made forest. Like the dualistic feel of the city, this body of work finds form in the dualistic usage of photography and found objects which Raubenheimer accumulates as she travels in and around Johannesburg. These interactions with the landscape articulate the notion of collecting or owning parts of the landscape which gives many of the artworks a nostalgic essence.
Subtly controversial, landscape art is traditionally an expression of humankind’s dominance over nature. More recent interpretations have reflected the destruction and decay that modernisation has wrought. Urban landscape is often a political expression of societal tensions, particularly in a South African landscape. As a medium of expression, landscape work seldom escapes the tinge of nostalgia for a “purer landscape” in its aesthetic. Rather than commenting on the power relationship implicit in the capturing of landscape, Raubenheimer collects the essence of her experience of Johannesburg, allowing her audience to feel nostalgic toward the cityscape, as she often does. The nostalgia for landscape is here ironically also a hankering for the simplicity of the 1970’s industrial cityscape in factories, power stations and the streets of downtown Johannesburg. Although working with photography and found objects, Raubenheimer joins South African artists like painter Henk Serfontein and draughtsman Jaco van den Heever in exploring the contemporary concerns of South African cities.
Collecting the landscape is the artist’s exploration of three interpretations of the landscape; photography, paper pulp and found objects. Through photography the artist keeps a visual record of the city and the things in it that she finds interesting. These photographs are often taken from car windows, allowing the viewer to experience the city as a tourist. The importance of light and colour when capturing a place is also reflected in these photos. This informs the second part of the work, paper pulp skylines. These works are made from pulp dyed in saturated blues, greens, aquamarines, burning pinks and oranges, and deep black shades. Lastly, Raubenheimer explores the landscape through a collection of found objects, which she casts in resin into cabinets. “Objects have a history, either of the landscape, or of the people who inhabit the landscape”, says Raubenheimer. She collects dead insects and birds, jacaranda blossoms, seed pods, containers, packaging, old keys, coins and more, as she travels around the city.
The exhibition is at Artspace, 1 Chester Court, 142 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Rosebank. It closes on 3 April.