Looking at the View- Tate Britain’s take on the landscape

I was walking past Tate Britain a few days ago, musing about how its been a very long time since I’ve been inside- too long, in fact. I’ve also been fairly out of touch with the gallery scene recently (appalling, I know, for an art history student!) so I didn’t even know what the current exhibitions were.

Wandering through the gallery, I stumbled across an exhibition called ‘Looking at the View.’ This free, small exhibition is all about exploring the way artists throughout time have used the landscape in their work, using a variety of techniques and medium. It also plays with the way the viewer interacts with the landscape, and the different meanings it can carry. Some of the works were solely of the landscape, others used the landscape as a backdrop for the figures, for others still, the landscape worked merely as one tiny element of the composition.

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The curators have drawn really interesting comparisons between a number of works, juxtaposing similar looking works that were created possibly a hundred years apart, like these two:

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Sir Brooke Boothby by Joseph Wright, painted in 1781 and Tracey Emin’s Monument Valley (Grand Scale) of 1995-97. (I’m sort of curious as to why this photograph too two years to produce- I would love to hear the back story behind that one!) These paintings, when looked at in conjunction, are really interesting- the artist has created a really definite relationship between the figure and the landscape, and the viewer must question why they have made these choices and what they signify. Comparisons like this one are drawn all over the gallery, like these two very similar works, again painted a hundred years apart.

P1000885 (Left: Patrick Nasmyth, View Near Sevenoaks, Kent, 1820; Right: Augustus John, The Little Railway, Martigues, 1928)

Some of the works made me feel very homesick for huge flat fields and never ending skies, like where I live when not at uni, in Essex (one of the flattest places on earth!) And it made me pine for summer, especially because its still snowing (its nearly April, what is that?) I particularly liked these two:

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John Nash’s The Cornfield, 1918 and Paul Graham’s Union Jack Flag in Tree, County Tyrone, 1985. If they don’t make you long for long hot summer days I don’t know what will!

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Posted in art

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