Our online exhibition, A Dialogue with Landscape, is inspired by a war landscape from 1944 by the renowned Soviet avant-garde photographer Boris Ignatovich (1899-1976). In this image, a once peaceful land now lies in ruin. Covered with scarred earth and burnt trees, the terrain is personified as a victim of war. This philosophical landscape shows both destruction and liberation, with the presence of sunlight symbolizing hope and rebirth. The wheel of a cart in the center foreground can be interpreted as the Wheel of Life, known in Buddhism as the Bhavachakra, representing the cycle of life and death.
Landscape has always been a favorite tool of artists to communicate ideas. In the 1920s, photographers expressed a fascination with romantic and idealized landscapes, as in the images of Crimea by Vasiliy Ulitin (1888-1976). Ulitin’s landscapes are dreamlike, peaceful, and quiet. Similarly, Summer in Teberda by A. Tsoukker captures a scene of sublime tranquility amid the majestic Caucasus Mountains and evokes a feeling of happiness.
In landscape imagery, fields of wheat and the harvest carry a special significance and draw on the symbolic connection of crops to fertility and resurrection. In the Bible, the field of wheat represents the kingdom of heaven. Sergey Shimansky’s Threshing Season (1939) illustrates a harvest at a distance amid soft light, in a scene reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s film Days of Heaven (1978). In Georgy Petrusov’s photomontage Harvest (1934), the work of collecting hay is infused with the golden light of sunset, and the women are situated as if in a rhythmical dance. Van Gogh’s haystacks come to mind when viewing Mikhail Ryzhak’s painterly, sunlit photograph Haystacks (1930s), taken in the field near his hometown Odesa, Ukraine.
These poetic landscapes emphasize the eternal power of nature and offer a spiritual dimension, a glimpse of the infinite, and a contrast to evil caused by man. They carry a similar message to that heard in Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 2. The final movement, according to the Finnish conductor and composer Robert Kajanus, “strikes one as the most broken-hearted protest against all the injustice that threatens at the present time to deprive the sun of its light and our flowers of their scent.”