A Green and Pleasant Land, British Landscape and the Imagination: 1970s to Now is a new exhibition at the Towner Art Gallery, Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne BN21 4JJ. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 10:00am – 5:00pm and Bank Holiday Mondays, 10:00am – 5:00pm. Admission free.
This exhibition caught our eye recently and day trips to Eastbourne are already marked in the calendar. The offer to run a gallery of photos of this quality was too good to turn down and the corresponding press release too good to edit. Enjoy.
A Green and Pleasant Land explores the photographers and other artists who have shaped our understanding of the land we live on and its relationship to identity, place and time. The exhibition interprets the British landscape through the ideologies associated with both urban and rural landscapes, exposing the tensions between landscape represented as a transcendental, and one rooted in social and political histories.
Artists featured in A Green and Pleasant Land: Keith Arnatt, Gerry Badger, Craig Barker, John Blakemore, Henry Bond and Liam Gillick, Paul Caponigro, Thomas Joshua Cooper, John Davies, Susan Derges, Mark Edwards, Anna Fox, Melanie Friend, Hamish Fulton, Fay Godwin, Andy Goldsworthy, Paul Graham, Mishka Henner, Paul Hill, Robert Judges, Angela Kelly, Chris Killip, John Kippin, Karen Knorr, Ian Macdonald, Ron McCormick, Mary McIntyre, Peter Mitchell, Raymond Moore, John Myers, Martin Parr, Mike Perry, Ingrid Pollard, Mark Power, Paul Reas, Emily Richardson, Ben Rivers, Simon Roberts, Paul Seawright, Andy Sewell, Theo Simpson, Graham Smith, Jem Southam, Jo Spence, John Stezaker, Paddy Summerfield, The Caravan Gallery, Chris Wainwright, Patrick Ward, Clare Woods and Donovan Wylie.
Towner Art Gallery has pleasure in announcing A Green and Pleasant Land, British Landscape and the Imagination: 1970s to Now, a major survey of over 100 works by 50 artists who have shaped our understanding of the land we live on and its relationship to identity, place and time. The exhibition interprets the British landscape through the ideologies associated with both urban and rural landscapes, exposing the inherent tensions between landscape represented as a transcendental or spiritual place, and one rooted in social and political histories. Though mainly photography, A Green and Pleasant Land includes film, painting and sculpture, to explore how the diverse concerns that found expression in photography extended into other art forms.
Two photographers typify the counterpoints at the heart of A Green and Pleasant Land. Preoccupied with impermanence and its relationship to landscape, Keith Arnatt created Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (1982-84) and Pictures from A Rubbish Tip (1988-89), two striking and influential bodies of work that investigate the traces of human intervention in the British landscape and how the detritus of modern living becomes assumed into the rural environment. In contrast, Thomas Joshua Cooper – American born but resident in Scotland – works slowly, planning single images months ahead by consulting maps and literature, and making long journeys to coastlines, mountain cliffs and waterways to produce rapturous and sublime images.
In one of the earliest works in show – Paul Caponigro’s Stonehenge with Moon. Wiltshire. England – the photographer has sought to reveal the veiled meanings of the site by photographing the stones as still-life, imbuing them with the spiritual and mystical sense of the location. Emerging photographer Theo Simpson produces works meditating on the mutability of the post-industrial landscape examining ruins, materials and objects, to explore the temporal impact of manufacturing on the land and the extent to which fragile environments are scarred, but ultimately recovered from industrial activity.
John Davies is one of the world’s most important landscape photographers producing large-scale, highly detailed images that unpick the social and political materiality of the urban landscape. Shot from a high viewpoint and often taking in vast areas, his photographs are analytical and considered, a document of the history of human impact on the land. Similarly Emily Richardson’s Cobra Mist (2008) explores the relationship between the landscape of Orford Ness and the traces of its military history, particularly the experiments in radar and the extraordinary architecture of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. The film records the physical traces of its often secretive past using the photographic nature of 16mm film and time lapse to construct an impossible experience of the landscape and expose its history to the camera. At the opposite extreme, Susan Derges’ camera-less images are meditative and illusory, often created at night using moonlight or hand-held torches for exposure and inserting photographic paper into river or sea water, to track ripples, tides and shadows.
The contested landscapes of Northern Ireland provide the inspiration for socially engaged photographers Paul Graham, Paul Seawright and Donovan Wylie, all of whom address the history and politics of the Troubles in their work. Wylie has photographed British Army watchtowers in a systematic survey of the architecture of war and Seawright has revisited sights of Sectarian murders, and though less a documentarian, Graham reveals the complexities of conflict in his Troubled Land series (1984).
Strange worlds hidden within our own form the subject matter in works by Clare Woods and Ben Rivers. Daddy Witch (2008), Woods’ large-scale panelled landscape painting, is inspired by photographs taken at night at obtuse angles peering into ponds, woodlands and forests. Woods refers to her landscapes as ‘supernaturally charged rural places’, which are settings for ancient rites, pagan rituals and folk traditions. Rivers’ 19 minute 16mm film Ah, Liberty! moves between documentary and fiction, in a cinematic essay combining the unease and untamed sense of freedom of a family living and working on a farm in the Scottish Highlands.
Curated by Greg Hobson and Brian Cass, Head of Exhibitions at Towner, A Green and Pleasant Land is the third exhibition selected by Towner from the Arts Council Collection for the National Partners Programme following Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always, A Certain Kind of Light, and the presentation of the Arts Council Collection’s touring exhibition, One Day Something Happens.