we first came across Canadian artist Tristram Lansdowne when his surreal island paradise graced the opening pages of Landfill Editions’ epic Mould Map project. now we’re wishing we lived in Toronto, as a retrospective of his meticulously hand-painted works opens, showcasing a breathtaking series of imagined worlds. since we don’t, we caught up with him via email to find out more about the natural inspiration behind his paintings
when painting, what kind of source materials do you use for the geological and botanical elements?
I use a range of material to compose the images, from photos I take, to images I find in books and online. the pale rock formations that have been carved out that you can see in some of these paintings are taken from photos of Cappadocia in Turkey that a friend of mine took in 2009. some of the paintings are based on ideas I got from the geological illustrations in Athanasius Kircher’s 17th century book on geology called Mundus Subterraneus. the botanical elements are mostly composed from photos I take of residential gardens and botanical gardens. I find the artifice in these kinds of gardens interesting; they’re like botanical stage sets, deliberately cultivated ecosystems in miniature
have you embarked on any fieldtrips in search of places like this in the real world – for instance volcanoes or islands?
Yes, I really like to collect reference material when I’m travelling and I based a lot of my earlier work, that focused on urban landscapes, on photos I took in Eastern Europe. I haven’t visited any volcanoes yet but I’d love to
do you see these places as belonging to the past, the future, or neither?
I tried to create a sense of temporal limbo with this work, by combining elements from different historical periods and avoiding anything too momentary. I think history is traversable in these places, it’s a physical part of the landscape. the exhibition that the paintings are part of is entitled Fata Morgana, which is a type of complex mirage named after the Arthurian sorceress Morgan Le Fey. these mirages can produce phantom images of land, and even visions described as “castles in the sky.” the idea of a mirage as both natural phenomenon and inner vision was one of the
starting points for this work and seems appropriate for imagining new worlds
Fata Morgana is on until 28 October 2012 at LE Gallery, with a PV on 5 October from 6-9pm
Axis Mundi. watercolour on paper (framed). 44” x 33”. 2012
Beacon. watercolour on paper (framed). 20” x 22”. 2012
The Encyclops. watercolour on paper (framed). 44” x 34”. 2012
Kleptoparasitic Orphan. watercolour on paper (framed). 18” x 20”. 2012
Low Pressure System. watercolour on paper (framed). 28” x 19”. 2012