Ackland Visit

For my third blog post, I wanted to talk about our visit to the Ackland on the 13th of November. I guess it was only fitting that on one of the rainiest days of the entire semester, we looked at a good deal of paintings that had to do with the sea. The feeling that I associated with two of the items we looked at during the visit, was a sense of serenity. The painting, “River Landscape with Fisherman” from 1643 was very true to its title. In the painting, the water is very still, there are multiple boats on the river. You can see people on these boats, who we can presume are fishermen, there is even a dog seen on one of the boats in the foreground. The sense of calm is further exemplified by the bluish sky and the wispy clouds. We can see a town in the background of the painting and due to its proximity, the town does not look very big. I feel like this what was somewhat purposeful in that it just further denotes the importance of the boats. The purpose of this painting, in my opinio,n is to showcase a moment in history. Based off the context given by the description at the Ackland, this was painted in the 1600s by a Dutch painter that went by the name of Salomon van Ruysdael. In the 1600s, the Dutch were the number one exporters in the world due to the establishment of the Dutch East India Company, which was the world’s most powerful trading company.

The second item that I saw, that kept with this theme of serenity was the video called “The Batture Ritual” by Jeff Whetstone. The part of the film in which I sat through, I got to see a man fishing in the night. The video was filmed in a wide-shot and for that reason the man looked very small amidst a giant sea and the encompassing darkness of the night. The sound in the video was very minimal, as you were able to hear the soft splashing of the water, the horns of the steamboat in the distance, as well as the sounds of insects and birds. There is was no movement in the camera, which once again added to a sense of calm due to lack of action. The interesting thing about the movie, the film wavered between being boring and being somewhat striking. The reflection of the steamboat onto the river was incredibly beautiful, we are shown the interaction between nature and the industrialization of man, and despite what initially I found to be somewhat flat cinematography, turned out to capture on of the most astounding images i’ve seen in a while. Als,o I found a certain choice in the film to seem somewhat Avant-Garde, especially the close-up shot of the fish breathing, it almost looked as if it were suffering, which also made the whole experience feel very grotesque. I only found that to be off-putting and uncomfortable. I really don’t understand the purpose of that shot besides maybe giving the audience a more upfront view of nature, I just found that it disrupted the pre-established tone of the video which was much more tranquil. But there could be an argument of how there is a shift in scale, as bigger objects such as a human being and a steam-boat are given are smaller in scale in respects to the space in which they occupy, and this is shown through the wide-shot. While the close-up on the fish blows up the image of it and there is a sense of claustrophobia. The focus on the fish shows how even the smallest objects, such a fish, can have great weight if shown in a certain style or perspective. There was more gravity to the shot of the fish than anything else in the film, so maybe this is trying to show the significance of focus in media and the power that it possesses.

In the Ackland Visit, I was not initially impressed by the paintings that were associated with rivers/water but as I attempted to delve deeper into their purpose and what significance that they possess, I found myself asking questions about the feelings that the painting gave me and the reasons for they exist in the first place. Sure there is a commonality in that both these pieces were calming to me for the most part. In contrast to the item we saw, which was called “Looking at the Sea” which was much more abstract and gave me this feeling of chaos. This is painting that I personally didn’t see very much purpose to and it left an unwanted pretentious taste in my mouth, because of how abstract the message of the painting was. Maybe, it just wanted to emulate the chaotic nature of the ocean or maybe it delves deeper than that. Yet, I digress, I guess the two works of art that I talked about prior both showcased the beauty that exists in the interaction between humans and nature. Both works exemplify tranquility and an appreciation for nature and its gifts.