The Romantic Digital Landscape
Robert Youngson creates high-quality digital prints of contemporary landscapes, inspired by the sublimes of the Romantic painters of the 18th and 19th century and incorporating the surroundings of his own childhood. The images are imbued with an atmosphere of mystery and presage. Youngson constructs a melting pot of childhood memories, drawing, for example on local authority strikes in the 1970s, when rubbish lay uncollected and grass allowed to grow out of control, leaving the urban council estate where he grew up abandoned and neglected. Abandonment is a thread that connects much of his work.
abandoned builder’s yard B14
Youngson paints with the mouse, testing and pushing the boundaries of technology and factory computer settings beyond the realm of predictable results. Here, the digital medium begins to reveal itself, using the notions behind all painting and mark making. Patches of his work are left deliberately pixelated and damaged, in contrast to other parts that appear to be glazed in oil. He does not attempt to imitate paint; instead he explores the digital medium’s textural qualities in subtle and sympathetic colours and tones. The pixels are not hidden but taken as an inherent quality of the medium: they are his brushstrokes.
Youngson encompasses the sublime by creating tiny details within vast landscapes. The subtlety of light suggests an atmospheric range from shimmering sun to overcast, heavy weather. In some pieces he will use familiar buildings as tiny reference points to place the viewer inside the wider expanse, in the same way as Casper David Friedrich would place a figure on a mountain or shoreline. Youngson is also highly influenced by the sweeping light and the highly decisive palette of JMW Turner.
Finally, a similar but essential factor of his work is the use of ‘subversion of reality’. This underpins all of his works. Due to the photographic origins, the images start off with a firm grip on what we normally accept as reality, until closer examination reveals something less reassuring. Then, these first assumptions start softly to fall apart. They are not real clouds; they are pixels. They are not painted brush strokes; they are gestural marks in 72dpi.
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