Bastard Countryside

Friend, Robin

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Bas­tard Coun­try­si­de collects tog­e­ther 15 years worth of explo­ra­ti­on wit­hin the Bri­tish land­s­cape, dwel­ling on what Vic­tor Hugo cal­led the ‘bas­tard coun­try­si­de’: “some­what ugly but bizar­re, made up of two dif­fe­rent natures”. Friend’s lar­ge-for­mat colour images scru­ti­ni­se the­se inbet­ween, unk­empt, and often sur­re­al mar­gi­nal are­as of the coun­try, high­ligh­t­ing fric­tions bet­ween the pas­to­ral sub­li­me and the dis­car­ded, often pol­lu­t­ed rea­li­ty of the present.

Star­ting from a clas­si­cal land­s­cape tra­di­ti­on, Friend’s meti­cu­lous 5x4 pho­to­graphs are given heigh­te­ned effect through exa­g­ge­ra­ti­ons of colour and com­po­si­ti­on, embo­dy­ing a fric­tion bet­ween Bri­tish pas­to­ral ide­als and pre­sent rea­li­ty. In par­ti­cu­lar, Friend fol­lows moments in which the expec­ted nar­ra­ti­ve of the land­s­cape is rude­ly inter­rup­ted: often through leaka­ge, pol­lu­ti­on, or the wre­cka­ge and con­tain­ment of nature.

In his accom­pany­ing essay, wri­ter Robert Mac­far­la­ne descri­bes Bas­tard Coun­try­si­de as “a visi­on par excel­lence of our syn­the­tic ‘modern natu­re’– pro­du­ced by assem­bla­ge and ent­an­gle­ment rather than puri­ty and dis­tinc­tion”. Con­tai­ned wit­hin Friend’s pho­to­graphs are “hard ques­ti­ons […] about what kinds of land­s­cape one might wish eit­her to pass through or to live in; about what ver­si­ons of ‘modern natu­re’ might be worth figh­t­ing for, and why.”
Essay: Robert Macfarlane









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