Right now the city of Birmingham has about hundred 6x3m billboards by 29 international artists on display. Ben Long’s Moving Landscapes uses digitally altered and familiar 19th Century oil landscapes by artists like Constable, Wilson and Gainsborough to pose questions about our experience of modern life and the interaction with old and well-known reproduced artworks.
“The effect created is of the rural environment being moved through at high velocity, as if captured by photographic means from the window of a locomotive. Paintings (…) who expressed a romantic outlook of tranquility and contented country life, are reconsidered in relation to a modern reality that no longer moves at a stable, orderly pace. Moving Landscapes prompt us to examine whether we are exhilarated or baffled by the acceleration of modern life and whether access to more information at a faster speed means a greater or lesser experience of the world around us.”
“But I also think there is a cautionary meaning in there too, which is to do with how the historic can be manipulated and used as a commodity, and how we have become over-saturated with paintings by artists such as Constable to the point that we are no longer able to see them clearly. The Hay Wain is a perfect example of that because it appears on greetings cards and biscuit tins – my Nanna even has Constable place mats that she brings out when guests come to dinner! Rarely are we afforded a direct and pure experience of art. The reproduction is how we’re constantly receiving information and in a commercial world the meaning and original intention of these artworks become subtly distorted given enough time.”
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