OCCUPY NATURE : WILDERNESS APPROACHING
GALLERY B15 COPENHAGEN
FOR HIS THIRD SOLO EXHIBITION IN COPENHAGEN, AND HIS FIRST AT GALLERY B15, ALAN RANKLE PRESENTS A NEW SUITE OF WORKS IN HIS ONGOING LANDSCAPE PAINTING PROJECT.
The paintings emerge from Rankle’s continuing absorption in the metaphors and metaphysics of wilderness . Do we relate to wilderness spaces in any meaningful way beyond as screensaver from inside our little bubbles of rootless continuity, very often computers and cars? Is our concept of wilderness ever more resonant with how we relate to themed environments like Disneyworld, Dubai?
We have framed experiences of landscapes, often with no signifying context, we occasionally admire the views but cannot remember what they have to do with us. Wilderness is an ‘object’ to project onto only, not a space we can really comprehend ‘being’ in. We ‘do’ wilderness but have lost awareness of what it ‘is’. Mirroring the complexity of how global capitals project across trans-national infra-structures, through visible and invisible networks, private spaces and public spaces, we are not anymore able to clearly perceive where the seats of mobile and political power are situated that affect our world. We no longer understand what controls them, who regulates them and why.
In the ways in which gestural painting reveals deep considerations within the psyche Rankle’s new works seem to be addressing this question of which structures and values have the most agency in contemporary social and political networks, and how this agency is impacting our collective landscapes. They speak of needing to remain affected by what lives and dies, what is created and destroyed. That when this heart-based human capacity is uncoupled and absent, the presence of catastrophic indifference becomes inevitable.
Since his recent series of works ‘Running from the House’ first shown in Copenhagen at Hans Alf Gallery in 2010 where he first began to portray the animal kingdom, Rankle speaks about leaning towards the symbolism and metaphor of masculinity and femininity in relation to this. “The stag is a mythic symbol of archetypal virility, he stands on a hilltop and has a genuine male quality.The doe conversely, has a genuine submissive,female quality and in the history of art the two are often used symbols employed to denote fertility. But the point is not to get caught up in sexual politics when the relevance for nature is the integration of both. The doe seems meek, but she has an incredible attentiveness, she notices the tiniest thing in the forest 3 miles away, alert to protecting her young. When we relate this to our own perception we might consider this territory in terms of reading the implicit changes in weather, wildlife and natural cycles. The focus of our collective attention needs to be an alertness to the signs and signals the natural world is providing, the yin of the yang. We live in a time when the nature itself is threatened and may yet like Edwin Landseer's famous ‘The Stag at Bay’, flounder in an inexorable force."
Rankle has a preoccupation also with panic and voidness on a psycho-social level. In these new works, he questions that our attention settles all too often on cartoon images of meaning that cause us to ignore what is actually happening here and now. But that in some other non-conscious register there is an emotional recognition of this avoidance of the forces of living reality. This avoidance of reality inducing a kind of ever-present white noise in the psyche, a background panic vibration that seeps and drifts through the global landscape and across the air-waves.
The paintings in his recent ‘Enigma’ series refer also to painters that Rankle reveres. In the light of this he credits seeing the paintings of Jakob van Ruisdael as a life-changing experience, realising that the golden section of Renaissance art could be used to direct attention along particular trajectories, and that Ruisdael used this structure so that the viewers gaze was guided not towards an important personages, or emblematic signs but instead towards the void. Ruisdael’s void was no doubt nostalgia for the transcendental, but Rankle directs our attention to another type of void. The void of ethics that governs our financial and trading markets, within the landscape of natural resources. The void of potential for ordinary citizens of democracies to participate in the global flows of power because its complex parasitical structures are being so cunningly hidden within global rescue narratives and ‘bail-out’ language.
While drawing our attention to the abstract within the figurative, Rankle’s paintings address the arbitrariness of enigmatic images within branding and fiscal culture. The ignorance and pathological intelligence of the statistical analysts who stare into screens and erase life for transient leverage, who speak of austerity for others whilst preserving incredible excesses of wealth for themselves. They gesture towards how this culture of ethical voidness is interacting with the panic drift of affective anxiety. They whisper if we have no proper protective relationship with the nature, only screen images with no real ground, where are we heading?
Landscapes to the businessman and politician are seen as pregnant with profits not innate and essential fecundity. Nature is being hounded, and in this respect it makes no difference whether we imagine power as nobility or virility, the floundering of nature is still inevitable if there is no grounded over-view. We really need to think what will we do if there is no more water, no more bees to pollinate?
What if we really have to stand and say, it is never acceptable to frame land-based value as leverage or capital in some future or market, crash the entire world economy and not go to jail, let alone get a bonus. What if we must struggle for the recognition of ordinary grounded vital life, organise our shared spaces and properly regulate the undemocratically sanctioned ‘use’ of our lands by polluting industries. The urgent need is for a real landscape art of our times to create the attitudes and consciousness that will inspire us to regulate oil, gas, pesticide, mining and military operations or watch our world perish?
Our collective ecosystem is being sacrificed under our noses, to fuel the fantasies, fears and profits of elites who like Nero are too busy fiddling to notice or care.
These new paintings, by turn stunningly picturesque and horrifyingly foreboding invite us to consider from the vantage point of viewers of landscape painting a broader picture of our environment, what our personal politics of engagement are with the world, its ethical wilderness and the virtual capitals of the financial dealers . If the personal is political these paintings also remind that the political is personal. They invite us to organise our comprehension from humane embodied insight beyond short-termism, beyond the screens and distortions of global agents who exempt themselves from the law and ciphon off incredible profits, whilst obliterating the infra-structures that sustain others lives and endangering the balance of the eco-system itself. They signal us to acknowledge the necessity for those who deeply care about the future to stand together now and curb the excesses of ‘ VampireSquid’. To see clearly that the web of power is not synonymous with the web of life and cannot be trusted to protect it currently. And that if we do not, certainly there is a wilderness approaching.
Sarah Lloyd 2012