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In my mid twenties I learnt to fly. I know, it kinda makes sense, being top mama bird an‘ all.....but truly, it was something I’d always wanted to do......to soar through the skies, free as a bird, with the wind in my face and my feathers ruffled. No machinery, no noise, just me and an inflatable wing.
So the opportunity arose, whilst I was travelling in India in 2000, to tandem paraglide in the hills west of Pune. Spiralling in the lift bands of rising air at the edge of the range, as the sun set. I was hooked. Instantly. Just magical.
Later that year I learned to fly solo, and on arriving in Australia, I retrained to get my Australian paragliding pilots license. For a few years I travelled around to flying sites along the east coast in my spare time. The highlight, and my longest solo flight was near Manila in rural NSW, where I flew up to 6000ft above the earth, and with just the power of nature flew 30km’s across the countryside. I shared a good part of the journey with a wedgetail eagle. It flew in the slipstream created by my paraglider and terrified the living daylight out of me....its claws a constant threat to deflating my wing.
The earth looks so very different up there. You get a whole new perspective on the lay of the land.
So when I saw these divine aerial photographs by Dutch photographer Gerco de Ruijter it brought back lots of lovely birdy flying high memories.
Baumschule , the series, features 32 photographs.
The artist set out to discover "how abstract can a landscape become while remaining a landscape?" Ruijter says ‘I tried to find the answer to this question during extended travels, by searching for a fully natural landscape, not manmade, and lacking any cultural presence’. His search eventually brought him home, to the hyper-artificial landscapes of tree farms and nurseries in the Netherlands.
"All of these objects arranged to form rows create a new form of abstraction, not because of the image’s emptiness but, to the contrary, because of the presence of so many 'things,' and their patterns and rhythms," as if we could farm and harvest barcodes directly from the ground’’says Ruijter.
Indeed, "I found an enormous variety of visual elements," he adds. "They show up not just because of the different seasons, but also through the stratification of the land. Trees, soil, holes. The combination of a tight grid and the camera’s central perspective results in a distinct depth, while on a cloudy day fore and background may slide into each other."
To take these photos, de Ruijter used both kite photography and even "a long fishing rod." He describes how the process worked: "On top of this rod is a 2.5" x 2.5" camera with a wide-angle lens. A self-timer is adjusted to give me enough time to telescope the rod and manoeuver the camera above the subject. The frame of the image begins in front of my own shoes and measures roughly 30' x 30'."
In doing so, we get a birds eye view of the landscapes, and a real taste of the abstract. Maybe not at 6000 feet, but the sense of time and space...... and with the eye of a textile designer, the beauty of the repeat patterns in nature........all are truly magical.
Gerco de Ruijter's Baumschule series is currently on display in its entirety at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, in the Netherlands, where it opened last week. It closes on April 10.