I developed a strong wanderlust growing up, and I have been lucky enough to travel to some incredible places in the world like the Himalayas, Tanzania and Vietnam. All these experiences made me realise that our relationship with places like the Lake District are very culturally defined and that the very idea of a natural landscape is influenced by ideas in our society and the media. I did a residency in the Yukon, in Canada. The Klondike region was the site of the last great gold rush and has all of the romantic connotations that go with that era. This sort of frontier culture, steeped in glorified heroism and romantic derring-do. I was interested in that being placed in this very remote region where, even now, there is very little infrastructure and very few people. You have this weird mixture of abandoned industrial detritus and incredibly wild landscape.
As an art form landscape painting is mostly associated with pretty watercolours (often of the Lake District!), the Impressionists and the grand romantic paintings of Turner and Constable. The way nature is marketed to us is that you’re going to a place of spectacular natural beauty, but the very nature of the landscape looks the way it does because of human intervention. It’s a constructed idea of what nature should look like. I’m interested in on the one hand what we’re told nature is and on the other hand what the reality of nature is, and how people are engaging with or thinking about the landscape.
I hope that my work makes people reflect on their own preconceptions about the nature and the environment around them. I feel that as an increasingly urban civilisation, our understanding about nature and the rural landscape is becoming mythologised, and often only serve as fodder for politicians, advertising agencies and travel companies. My challenge is to represent landscape in a way that articulates the cultural history and influences on our perception of landscape and of nature itself without falling back into well trodden paths of the picturesque and the sublime.