Monday, March 1, 2010

Avatar Film and Landscape Painting

I finally got around to seeing the film Avataor, mostly because my son-in-law Mike Hughes liked it so much. So much of what Hollywood produces seems to achieve the sensitivity of a McDonld's commercial. This time though, I think some poetry must have slipped in the backdoor of the movie studios. For anyone who takes pleasure in the look and feel of the world, I think this is a hard movie not to like. For landscape painters like myself, I found it extremely engaging.

All of us have our emotions and our senses stimulated by our surroundings. Here's a fable about a fictional planet where all the flora and fauna are linked together into an all encompassing awareness. The Na'avi, who "people" the planet connect to their environment in a way we can only dream about.

Philip Koch, The Violet Whisper, oil on canvas, 30 x 40"

For me when a painting is truly good, it has a transparency to its feeling. There is an intensity to its surfaces, its light and its depths that has a powerfully emotional quality. And when I have been at my best out painting in the landscape I've been able, at least for a little while, to feel the wall of separation between me and my subject come down.

Now I'm not going to run off and start painting other planets. But the image of the world of the Na'avi is sticking with me. It is a modern myth about overcoming our own alienation and isoltion from the natural world.

I've often thought about why I paint landscapes. For one thing, I grew up in the middle of nowhere in northern New York state. There were very few other children to play with so I had to spend an extraordinary amount of time playing by myself in the deep forests that surrounded my home. Its changes were dramatic through all four season. I can remember feeling delighted by it, awed sometimes and even frightened by the darkness of the forest. You can't come away from a long immersion in nature without apprehending a sense of its living personality. It is something very hard to put into words. I can't yet I want to relate some of my experience to others, so I paint.

Here's two photos from the film. I think the artists who conceived of the animation achieved something pretty remarkable. And theirs is an artistry in service of an ideal we all need more of in our lives.

Particularly well done in my opinion is the imagining and animation of the Na'avi people themselves.

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