Borrowed Views by Martina Shenal

Issue 36

This body of work is an exploration of the peripheral, the insignificant and sometimes monumental spaces within the Inland Seto Sea islands in southern Japan. I’m drawn to intersections of public and private, natural vs. the built environment, literal and metaphorical boundaries that offer protection as well as isolation. Acknowledging that place implies experiential familiarity and space points to the unknown, these images cite the dichotomy of an intimate encounter against the distanced backdrop of foreign observation. They are, in one sense, more about the act of looking than a narrative about place. Referencing a detailed transcription of place, they operate within a perpetually passing moment–ambiguous fragments of the material world.

The title of this series is loosely based on shakkei (borrowed scenery/views) a stylized perspective strategy used in traditional eastern landscape painting and seventeenth century Japanese garden design. In the former, vistas are overlaid to influence the perception of spatial distance; in the latter, a nearby landscape ‘monument’ is framed within the garden to create a meticulously constructed focal point. Referencing a conscious manipulation of the natural world, these images evoke both real and imagined thresholds and boundaries, and refer back to the mediated construction of reality within the photograph.

Martina Shenal is a Tucson, Arizona based photographer.
She is an Assistant Professor of Art in the Photography division at The University of Arizona.
To view more of Martina's work, please visit her website.