The environment, whether built or natural, has long been an important subject for artists. Articles in this issue look at how the environment has been experienced and imagined from the eighteenth century to the present day. Ruins, re-enactments and cultural memories are among the topics addressed. Read here, too, about Francis Bacon’s artistic dialogue with Edgar Degas and Van Dyck’s ties with tapestry production in England in the seventeenth century.
Art & Environment
Introducing the group of articles devoted to the theme of ‘Art & Environment’ in Tate Papers no.17, this essay reflects on changing perceptions of the term ‘environment’ in relation to artistic practices and describes the context for a series of case studies of sites, spaces and processes that extend from the immediate locality to the most remote boundaries of knowledge and experience.
Suggesting that Richard Long’s A Ten Mile Walk England is as much concerned with boundaries as it is with open spaces, Nicholas Alfrey reinterprets this particular walking piece in relation to the geography and history of the Exmoor landscape in which it was made.
Patrick Keiller’s film Robinson in Ruins was made as part of an AHRC project, ‘The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image’, which also involved Doreen Massey and Patrick Wright as co-researchers. Stephen Daniels introduces the film, while Keiller, Massey and Wright reflect on the ideas that shaped their research.
Charting the genealogy of Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins, Brian Dillon considers the film’s subjects and themes in terms of what he sees as a particularly English enthusiasm for ruins.
Examining works of contemporary art that have engaged with militarised landscapes, Matthew Flintham reflects on the ruination of outmoded military structures, the idea of landscape as an extension of the military imagination, and the investigative strategies of activist artists.
Focusing on the long relationship Andy Goldsworthy has had with the landscape of the Bretton Estate, the location of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Helen Pheby explores the artist’s interest in the cultural heritage of the English landscape, which informed the design of estates such as Bretton.
In light of theories of re-enactment, Geoff Quilley argues that the landscape imagery produced by amateur British naval artists on voyages to Tahiti in the 1840s can be seen as re-enacting the art associated with Captain Cook’s voyages of the 1770s.
John Latham’s Artist Placement Group residency at the Scottish Office’s Development Agency in 1975–6 led to a series of proposals for some of the nineteen huge derelict heaps of red shale waste known as ‘bings’, found in West and Midlothian near Edinburgh. Craig Richardson evaluates the art historical and ecological significance of four of these bings near the small towns of Winchburgh and Broxburn, which Latham reconceived as ‘process sculptures’ and collectively titled Niddrie Woman.
Examining Cai Guo-Qiang’s photographic series The Century with Mushroom Clouds, Ben Tufnell explores the work’s connections to American land art and its use of touristic tropes as strategies for evoking histories in landscapes.
Richard Wrigley reconnects the Roman campagna – a landscape endowed with considerable artistic significance – with its troubled history as an all but abandoned terrain, notwithstanding its symbolic function for the landowners who oversaw its systematic neglect.
Providing the first focused account of Francis Bacon’s artistic dialogue with Edgar Degas, Martin Hammer argues that the French painter was a consistent source of inspiration to Bacon throughout his career, informing his decisions about subject matter, style and medium.
Van Dyck first came to England in 1620, when the Surrey-based Mortlake Manufactory began making tapestries. Simon Turner considers whether Van Dyck came to England as a potential designer of prestigious tapestries, examining an oil sketch for an unrealised tapestry series celebrating the Order of the Garter in the Banqueting House in Whitehall.