31 December 2015

line of enquiry

I started musing about lines way back when I was designing atlases and the maps that went in them. A line is a convenience to define where one thing starts and another ends: a boundary between one area and another. It becomes something else when it has a thickness of its own. Inevitably when making maps one has to use a convention to act as a line which can be seen or detected to make the necessary changes it determines, but may not be required to show as an actual finite line at all. In the days when we were still drawing maps by hand we had to specify which side of any drawn line the end of one zone was, and ensure that the line employed had the same characteristics (colour) of the zone it determined, if not to be a visible construction in the final printed map..

Of course, what we call a line is actually one of the most widely used, versatile and convenient of graphic symbols. Sticking with the  maps and mapping example, line is used to define land height (contours), indicate route ways, (roads railways paths, canals, and many others) areas of differing land use (urban, woodland, lake, river, and many other things), boundaries both actual, political and notional,  and a host of other things. Line makes mapping possible. Beyond maps,  line facilitates painting, drawing, technology of all sorts,  the way we live on an hour by hour basis. Line is so instilled into our visual and mental psyche that we see and respond to lines everywhere, often without even knowing we are doing it.

Some years ago I developed a personal investigation about lines on the littoral seeking line out as a mental interface that our eyes and brains superimpose upon what we perceive. I extended the meaning of some of the images I collected for this enquiry, to emphasise the line I found embedded in the pictures I was making. Some of these lines are compound as they contain differentiated light or colour or material; others are simple, notional, perceived, transient. One is a washed up tree trunk.

I concluded that line does not actually exist as such: only our perception creates line.

The resulting pictures were assembled into a sequence and shown as a digital showreel as part of an exhibition about the littoral, in Plymouth. Although all this took place some time ago now lines in the landscape continue to interest me and I seek them out where I can.

The Lines on the Littoral albums each show a portion of the original presentation: for convenience I have split the original images into four albums.

flickr: line of enquiry

The original explanatory frames that introduced the sequence to the viewer have been omitted.