Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Elevated Highway; Inter-urban painting

Elevated highway, oil on card, 12.5 x 10.2 cm; 54 US$ or equivalent

One of a series of paintings which will feature the roads and suburban architecture that is a response to, and product of Florianopolis's intensive car culture (car ownership for the city runs at 50% per capita, an incredible number given the cost of cars relative to income in Brasil, and when you consider that this includes children and people incapable of driving).

The phenomenon of this interurban architecture is excellently considered in "Italy - Cross Sections of a Country," Scalo Zurich, 1998) by Stefano Boeri, which charts his work with the photographer Gabriele Basilico, describing the urban sprawl along various Italian highways, and with it the destruction of 19th century city spaces and lifestyles.

This terrain has also been visited by painters before, most obviously Edward Hopper, and there are various other American artists who've dealt with this sort of landscape, including photo-realists.

Painting such scenes is not pleasant as it requires spending time in settings which are inhumane, good only for cars, often noisy and polluted. And a major reason for many painters for being painters is romantic rebellion: a pastoral retreat into the countryside, an escape from this suburbanity. I have those romantic tendencies myself. This world of parking lots and highways and shopping malls and storage lots, all interconnected by tarmac is disturbing, apparently centreless: the world of J. G. Ballard.

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