Experimentation is very much a part of Linda Plunkett’s process and her new series seems something of a departure for her, but Stephanie McBride finds her approach is firmly rooted in her engagement with the natural landscape
Irish artist Linda Plunkett cites the pioneering work of the Pictorialists as an influence in her practice and in her concern to capture the natural world in its serene moments. Rather than sweeping landscapes, her images favour the smaller details – dappled water, gaunt trees, birds in flight – ‘to invite the viewer to feel what the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins called the deep-down things’.
In particular, she says, Edward Steichen’s The Pond – Moonlight (1904), a gum bichromate print over platinum, ‘was one of the first photographs that made a lasting impression on me’. Steichen’s approach to his subject and his experimental applications in completing his print were a mark of the Pictorialist movement, which flourished from around 1885 until 1915. With Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz among its driving forces, it claimed an artistic legitimacy for photography and brought about its radical rethink as an art form. Their approach and practice stressed formal aesthetics over photography-as-documentation or the medium’s more mechanical aspects. Their experimentation and concern for composition, colour, tone and layering – to go beyond merely recording reality – often resulted in images with a dreamlike, painterly quality.
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