English & EAL

Imaginative Landscape: Introduction

Lisa Tran

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Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...

What is a landscape?

Landscape is the physical environment we see around us everyday and everywhere we go. All landscapes are unique, from the quiet countryside to the hustle and bustle of the city. This individuality stems from their geographical location to their scenic backdrop – some consisting of buildings, vegetation, rivers and more. It is through our perspective of the landscape that allows us to appreciate what is before us. However, our other senses also come into play when conceptualising a particular space. While you may not notice it, when you look at a picture or painting of the ocean, your mind absorbs more information than what you simply see. You subconsciously imagine the warmth of the sun, the breeze of the ocean and the salty smell of the sea lingering around you. Thus, it is our 5 senses that help us understand and appreciate different landscapes. Have a look at these pictures below, and use your 5 senses to establish the type of landscape presented by the images:

Countryside landscape
Beach landscape
Metropolitan landscape

Why are landscapes important?

Looking at the photos above, you can now understand how all your senses are important in shaping a landscape. When you think of home, you may associate it with lots of noise, smells of Italian cooking, or the warmth of the fireplace. However, it is not just these senses that help us connect with our home landscape, but also your emotions and experiences. Consider the feelings that have emerged when thinking about home. Perhaps you feel comforted and content, or nostalgic and homesick. These feelings are important in how we perceive particular landscapes. The emotions are linked with our experiences, such as spending Sunday night watching movies with the family or hosting a garage sale every summer. Thus, it can be said that while physical landscapes are the canvas, we apply the artistic touches to demonstrate how we see a landscape.

Types of landscapes

There are many types of landscapes. When differentiating between the physical elements of a landscape, the major ones include:

  • Cityscape
  • Countryside – plains, agriculture, fields.
  • Deserts
  • Mountains
  • Forests
  • Water bodies – sea, ocean, beach, valley, waterfall, river, lakes, ponds.

Transitory elements also make up a part of the landscape. These include:

  • Weather – storms, precipitation (rain or snow), wind, clouds,
  • Natural disasters – cyclone, hurricane, bushfire,
  • Lighting – day/night, sunset, sunrise, twilight, dawn,
  • Seasons – summer, autumn, winter, spring.

What is an imagined landscape?

An imagined landscape is the meaning we add to a physical landscape. Our perspective of landscape is not as simple as it may first appear. Since it is through our view that we see a landscape, the natural world around us is not viewed through an objective lens – rather, it is subjective as our thoughts and feelings influence what we see. A simple and everyday example is the weather. For an individual, an overcast and rainy day can be seen as another bleak winter period, leading them to feel melancholy. Contrastingly, a bright and sunny day may encourage them feel warm and enlightened.

Many personal factors influence our subjective view of landscape. These include:

  • Culture
  • Tradition
  • Values
  • Morals
  • Beliefs
  • Religion
  • Emotions
  • Attitude
  • Experiences
  • Choices
  • Career
  • Lifestyle

Whose landscape?

Every person sees landscape differently. This is mainly due to the human factors discussed above. However, another factor that influences the way we perceive landscape is other people around us. Through our family, friends, and associates’ experiences and beliefs, we come to view a landscape in a different ways. For example, you may drive past an intersection on the way to school or work. For you, this landscape may be insignificant, as it is just a part of the urban landscape that you pass through on a daily basis. However, a friend may share that she knew someone close who had a car accident in that intersection, and consequently passed away. From that day onwards, this story may impact you to see the landscape differently. Instead of just another intersection that has little influence in your day, your thoughts may flicker to that car accident tragedy every now and then, leaving you to feel a sense of sadness for your friend. Hence, while landscapes are static, they are perceived differently for each individual.

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