From Beate Gütschow’s ‘LS’ series, the text below is from The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago:
Beate Gütschow’s exploration as an artist directly probes questions of pictorial representations of reality. As a student in Hamburg and Oslo, she explored verisimilitude initially as a painter and installation artist and eventually became attracted to photography for its apparent, though qualified, ability to more faithfully and accurately represent reality. Her final constructions at first glace appear as if captured from reality but upon closer inspection they are revealed as fiction.
The exhibition (2008) surveys two of Gütschow’s photographic series: LS and S. LS is an abbreviation of Landschaft, or landscape, and S is for Stadt, or city. Both series posit questions of idealization—one of nature and the other of urbanity. Drawing from her enormous archive of collected images, mostly taken with analog film, of trees, buildings, clouds, hills and people, Gütschow’s pictures are montages consisting of up to hundred different images assembled together digitally. Her final constructions at first glace appear as if captured from reality but upon closer inspection they are revealed as fiction.
Influenced by artists such as Claude Lorrain, John Constable, and Nicolas Poussin, the LS series follows the rules of romantic landscape painting of the 17th century. Traditional landscape paintings are organized with three distinct spaces: the foreground serves as the viewer’s entrance into the picture, usually framed by trees like a stages set; the middle ground contains a river or path and people looking outward; and the background vanishes in the far distance. The frame suggests an expansive terrain. Using these rules, Gütschow creates an idyllic landscape by mixing elements of pictures taken from parks, construction sites, pristine nature, and people engaged in leisure activities. The deliberate inclusion of familiar 21st century elements like garbage, trees cut by chainsaws, and people in T-shirts endows an otherwise romantic landscape with implausibility and suspicion.
Header image: LS#3, 1999, by Beate Gütschow.