In summer 2022 Tate Liverpool will present Radical Landscapes, a major exhibition showing a century of landscape art revealing a never-before told social and cultural history of Britain through the themes of trespass, land use and the climate emergency.
The exhibition will include over 150 works and a special highlight will be Ruth Ewan’s Back to the Fields 2015-22, an immersive installation that will bring the gallery to life though a living installation of plants, farming tools and the fruits of the land. This will be accompanied by a new commission by Davinia-Ann Robinson, whose practice explores the relationship between Black, Brown and Indigenous soil conservation practices and what she terms as ‘Colonial Nature environments’.
Expanding on the traditional, picturesque portrayal of the landscape, Radical Landscapes will present art that reflects the diversity of Britain’s landscape and communities. From rural to radical, the exhibition reconsiders landscape art as a progressive genre, with artists drawing new meanings from the land to present it as a heartland for ideas of freedom, mysticism, experimentation and rebellion.
Radical Landscapes poses questions about who has the freedom to access, inhabit and enjoy this ‘green and pleasant land’. It will draw on themes of trespass and contested boundaries that are spurred by our cultural and emotional responses to accessing and protecting our rural landscape. Key works looking at Britain’s landscape histories include Cerne Abbas 2019 by Jeremy Deller, Tacita Dean’s Majesty 2006 and Oceans Apart 1989 by Ingrid Pollard. Ideas about collective activism can be seen in banners, posters and photographs, such as the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp banners by Thalia Campbell, video installations by Tina Keane, and a selection of photographs by Alan Lodge which include the Stonehenge Free Festival and raves in the 80s and 90s.
Reflecting on shared customs, myths and rituals, the exhibition emphasises how artists have reclaimed the landscape as a common cultural space to make art. Interrogating concepts of nature and nation, the exhibition reverses the established view to reveal how the countryside has been shaped by our values and use of the land. Key works looking at performance and identity in the landscape include Claude Cahun’s Je Tends les Bras 1931and Whop, Cawbaby 2018 by Tanoa Sasraku, while the significance of the British garden is seen in works such as Anwar Jalal Shemza’s Apple Tree 1962 and Figures in a Garden 1979-81 by Eileen Agar.
The exhibition will also consider how artists and activists have created works that highlight and question human impact on the landscape and ecosystems, shining a light on the restorative potential of nature to provoke debate and stimulate social change. Radical Landscapes will feature works that reflect on the climate and its impact on the landscape including Gustav Metzger’s dazzling Liquid Crystal Environment 1965 (remade 2005) and Yuri Pattison’s sun[set] provisioning 2019.
Radical Landscapes will be presented within an immersive, environmentally-conscious exhibition design by Smout Allen that creates a dynamic dialogue with the artworks. The exhibition will be complemented by a new publication, with contributions by leading and upcoming writers, campaigners, naturalists, environmentalists and social historians, offering a wide variety of voices on the subject of landscape. A diverse public programme will accompany the exhibition, taking place online, throughout the gallery, across the city and beyond into the great outdoors throughout the summer.
Radical Landscapes is curated by Darren Pih, Curator, Exhibitions & Displays, and Laura Bruni, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool.