New East Digital Archive

Photo of the week: follow Caspar David Friedrich’s footsteps to the Czech border

Photo of the week: follow Caspar David Friedrich's footsteps to the Czech border
View point, Bohemian Switzerland, Czech Republic, 2016. From Woanders [Elsewhere] by Tim Sullivan

22 July 2016

Our photo of the week comes from British artist Tim Sullivan’s journey to the lush and unruly wilderness of Saxonian Switzerland, which spans the border between Germany and the Czech Republic.

Also known as Bohemian or Czech Switzerland, it was one of the locations that German Romantic painter, Caspar David Friedrich, visited and paid homage to. After coming across a collection of paintings by Friedrich in Dresden, where the influential painter resided most of his life, Sullivan discovered that a majority of depicted places were situated along or near borders. “I felt this was especially interesting for an artist who is mostly associated with the German landscape,” says Sullivan.

“As an itinerant artist myself, I became more and more interested in the prospect of visiting the areas that this famous wanderer had drawn his inspiration from,” so Sullivan travelled also to the Czech and Polish Border, in the Karkonoše (Czech) or Karkonosze (Polish) mountain range known in many of Friedrich’s paintings by the German name Riesengebirge, as well as the Baltic coast of Germany and Poland.

The composition ofView point echoes the formal qualities of Friedrich’s work, forcing the viewer’s gaze through the forest, beyond the summit, into an unknown and seemingly infinite expanse— though Sullivan admits, an exact replica was near enough impossible.

“I kept an extensive collection of reproductions throughout the road trip,” Sullivan describes the process. “To locate and to record, somehow replicating the paintings would maybe seem to have been a logical format to follow, especially seeing as my body of work was produced with cameras, following a documentary style, with no post-production manipulation. However, it became evident early on in the trip that Friedrich’s landscapes could not be photographically copied in any figurative way, not at least when drawing form the actual geographic locations that he used for inspiration in his works.”

Friedrich was responsible for transforming landscape painting into a radically subjective art form. In searching for Friedrich’s presence in the landscape, Sullivan was forced to contemplate his own journey. “After researching and finding a designated spot, I would always be confronted with something else, an unexpected sense arriving from my own personal encounter with the place. This otherness, a surprise of my own relation to the landscape became key to the project.”