Andrews' Chapter 8: 'Landscape and Politics'.
Landscape as text.
The repository of all sorts of hidden messages, even when it doesn't look like it.
Especially when it doesn't look like it.
Especially when it's trying hard not to look like it...
'Landscape in art can express a set of political values... when it is least seeming to invoke political significance... Pictures of wild scenery, without a trace of cultivation or human presence... appeal largely because they dramatize that landscape's own untrammelled liberty... They are places where political life emphatically is not, and therefore remind us of what is absent.'
There's the danger of a sort of doublethink or double bind here. If an artwork contains an overt political message, it's political. If it doesn't, it's obviously trying not to be political... so it's taking a stance after all... a political stance (maybe a 'gesture of defiance'). Ergo you can't be apolitical as an artist.
And if the politics is inevitably in the work then the commentator is at liberty to uncover all sorts of messages and themes... on a spectrum from the banal to the entirely fanciful, perhaps regardless of the artist's avowed intent, or in the total absence of any evidence of intent (for example, because the work was made, quite possibly anonymously, centuries ago).
What if I want to make paintings and prints and I don't see them as containing anything political? Must I conclude that I shouldn't be so naïve?
The obvious political message to incorporate in a landscape today would be one about environmental degradation. If I choose not to include this am I necessarily betraying blindness, perhaps willful blindness? Can I paint a view solely because I like it?... Of course I can, I've done it. But, I suppose, I thereby put to one side any claim to be 'contemporary'? Is that the price? Is it the mark of contemporary art that it speaks to contemporary issues? Put like that it seems obvious that the answer has to be 'Yes'. Could one contemporary issue be the need to represent attractive views? Plenty of amateur artists do it; what about any 'proper' artists. Who is making landscapes these days?