painting the world

Summary: God in the landscape

In the essay with the title “God in the landscape. A search for a horizon. A semiotic analysis of landscape-paintings as religious heterotopias” was the starting point an article of Michel Foucault entitled “Des Espace Autres,” (published by the French journal Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité in October, 1984) in which he proposed a new concept called “heterotopias” to describe places in time.

I used this concept to analyze the landscape-painting in art, especially the work of the painters: Anselm Kiefer, Armando, Caspar David Friedrich and Kaii Higashiyama. My special interest had the question how this painters give meaning to their work. The work of Anselm Kiefer in his early years can be typified as mythological heterotopias, the work of Armando as historical heterotopias and the work of Caspar David Friedrich and Kaii Higashiyama as religious heterotopias.

In texts and other documents this painters give an expression of their personal awareness of the landscape. I collected as much as possible personal explications to analyze this process of signification by the painters themselves. I analyzed their work as a search for a horizon between heaven and earth, and how they give meaning to heaven and earth in their relationship.

In this essay texts of poets also illustrate this process from the point of view that poetry adapts a transitional reality: epiphany becomes possible. In the romantic period of art painters believed that the landscape could be a place where heaven and earth could meet. But there was also the feeling of existential emptiness. In the Japanese and Chinese landscape the transcendental found a place to be. In modern western landscape the aspect of divinity of the landscape vanished. Here not the work but the painter himself and his ideas became the centre of interest.

Michel Foucault thought that a work of art takes a position between the empirical reality and the theories about it. Artists cross borders and this is essential for their work. Painters as Kiefer, Armando, Friedrich and Higashiyama do this in their own way but they have in common that they open our eyes for this transcendental aspect of reality.