Born 1984 in Schenectady, NY. Lives and works in Cleveland, OH.
In his newest series of paintings, Curlowe explores the juxtaposition of nature and industry while reflecting upon his recent travels through Scotland. These works reflect the dramatic and cyclical history etched into the Scottish Highlands. Once a lush forest covered in trees, Scotland’s now iconic landscape of open vistas, awash in heather and moss, is an illustration of human reinvention, appropriation and second wave conservation.
Scotland’s landscape saw a dramatic shift 5,000 years ago during the Neolithic Era, when a climate shift rendered the once dense forests largely uninhabitable for native trees. As agriculture slowly developed among local populations, land was further cleared for grazing livestock and lumber was harvested for industry. By the early 1900’s, the majority of forestland had been razed by the human hand. In the early 1930’s, less than 10% of Scotland’s forest remained. Industry had reinvented an already shifting landscape to better serve human needs. World War II brought new demands to the hills and valleys of Scotland. The United Kingdom’s need for lumber supply inspired rapid changes with the cultivation of new and managed forests, populated with fast growing, non-native trees. Densely planted, rigid, foreign and quickly harvested - this was not the forest of Scotland’s past, but a renewable and reinvented design intended to best serve the immediate needs of a growing world at war. Today these controlled and cultivated forests, inundated with human design, intention, and oversight, is less than in keeping with modern ideas of conservation. New efforts are underway to restore some of the indigenous forest that has been wiped from recent memory.
Three worlds are on display in Scotland today as rolling hills, crags, and moss come to a head with managed geometric forests of human invention, contrasting with the new slow-growth, organic plantings of indigenous trees that are meant to re-envision a lost landscape and to support a forgotten wildlife. The human hand can’t seem to stop altering, even when attempting to re-create what was once organic. The paintings explore the perception of authenticity. What is desired in a landscape restoration? Can these three worlds co-exist, or is learned history indelible?
Within these works, vertical and rigid elements strike through linen canvas in orderly rows. Geometric planes break apart the landscape into utilitarian confines of human development and ownership. Architectural lines grow and superimpose upon implied land masses, as industry reacts to human need and consumption. Each of these elements penetrates the unified fields of purple, ochre and green that evoke heather and moss undergrowth, and form the stage of human curation.
Video Interview: Andy Curlowe from CPAC (Vimeo)