Sunday, 16 January 2011

Alpine Landscape

Greetings from Les Gets in the French Alps
Some reflections on Alpine landscapes

Mitch (my partner) and I have just had a short break in the French Alps. This is Mitch:

While we were there primarily to relax and enjoy the company of my sister and her family, I also took  the opportunity to reflect a little on Alpine landscape - from the point of view of an artist rather than that of a tourist

The village of Les Gets is typical of this part of the French Alps. 

What strikes one immediately, however, is that this is a landscape of great natural beauty that has been thoroughly taken over by its inhabitants. Indeed, there is not a single hillside or open area that is not wholly dedicated to winter sports or summer recreation - walking, mountain bikes etc.

I guess we humans have always shaped a landscape to our peculiar or specific needs - not always sympathetically!

While there is still natural beauty to be found, human habitation invariably dominates the scene. Even the sky above our heads (as seen from Mount Chery) reveals the extent of our carbon footprints:

I do not want to sound overly critical (it was a lovely holiday, after all) but where in these mountains can you find a view or landscape that is not  trashed by human activity? 

There are no nature parks or reservations in the Alps that I know of and apart from some of the very high peaks, few places where one can find real solitude

This, for me at least, is a real shame and something we should reflect upon from time to time. Of course there are such places elsewhere in Europe but they become fewer and fewer over time

Even the stretches of forest are shaped by humans - whether it be drainage ditches or deforestation

As a painter, I have frequently drawn inspiration from nature, particularly forests or dark woods.

In such places I find a mixture of beauty and what I can only describe as menace - a place inhabited by dark spirits and mysterious forces

You might describe this as Romanticism but for me such feelings go back to our earliest and most basic experiences on this planet, when ancient pagan gods ruled nature - such as Dionysus:

Below is a painting of mine which I hope captures some of this feeling; a feeling that transcends the simply pictorial, conventional landscape but which is still beautiful and full of natural forms:

Perhaps I am asking too much of a tourist spot in the French Alps to furnish me with landscapes of singular beauty yet redolent of a pagan past but even the Alps can occasionally catch one unawares - as in this sunset which took place on the last day of our short winter vacation:

So, enjoy the Earth's natural resources - while they are still available but do not expect them to last forever while we rule this planet!

All photographs and paintings by
Mike Healey

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