George Eastman House

from: The Blog

“ Oceanscapes – One View – Ten Years “

by Jasmin Seck

Water and it’s elemental forces have always been, artistic indicators for self-experience and self-loss. Images of the ocean determine the iconographic nature of the history of art. The sea has remained to this day one of the archetypal natural landscapes of our planet and therefore has not lost any of its enchantment. The ocean: a collective metaphor and a space of projection for our longings and desires. Therefore, on first encounter, Renate Aller’s Oceanscapes appear so familiar to us. What we are seeing is nothing new, but how it is presented to us is what makes the difference.

Renate Aller, from the series ‘Oceanscapes - One View - Ten Years’, 2008. The photographer captured this Long Island viewpoint over the decade.

With an eye for detail and an accomplished technique, Aller knows how to capture the full chromatic spectrum of nature in all its breathtaking variety. In some images, there is an interplay of clouds and reflections on the surface of the water. In others, the roughened surface of the ocean transforms itself into a metallic sandy desert, a silvery moonscape, a glittering diamond field, or a crusted icy plane. It is the light, above all else, giving the images their powerful color and creating unique textures.

The ever-changing horizon in the individual pieces reminds us of the swaying amplitude in a piece of music. Aller’s ocean compositions appear to be visualizing the universal rhythms of life: ebb and tide, coming and going, life and death – an endless melody. She constructs mental images and raises sensory issues highly reminiscent of the ideology and concepts of the 19th century with her sublime oceanscapes. Something of the sublimity of the great romantic landscape paintings, especially those of Caspar David Friedrich clearly oscillates in her iconography of melancholy and silence. The absence of Friedrich’s familiar rear-view figure demands an even greater need for the active presence of the viewer.

Aller’s works present us with visual experiences of striking activity, in which landscape becomes the stage: nature performs it’s dramatic spectacle of life and death – everything is in a permanent process of renewal. Her point of view is as well renewed at every moment. In her opinion it is unavoidable and necessary that humans adapt constantly and akin to their environment. Therefore she will, most likely, never stop the creation of these impressive images of the ocean.