30 November 2019 – 26 January 2020
Tate Britain today unveils its annual Winter Commission to transform and illuminate the gallery’s façade. In anticipation of the winter solstice, artist Anne Hardy has taken inspiration from the rhythms of the earth and the tides of the River Thames. From 30 November 2019 to 26 January 2020, the building’s grand entrance is turned into a marooned temple, appearing with tattered banners and tangled lights, while sculptural objects cascade down the steps from the shuttered central door, surrounded by an atmospheric soundscape of rain, thunder, birds and insects.
Anne Hardy is renowned for her large-scale sculptural installations or ‘field works’, which combine physical materials with light and sound to create immersive and sensual environments. Her commission for Tate Britain, entitled The Depth of Darkness, the Return of the Light, is her most ambitious project to date. The title is inspired by pagan descriptions of the winter solstice – the darkest moment of the year. It refers to seasonal cycles and longer-term ecological patterns, as well as alluding to contemporary social and political issues and the hope for positive change.
At the centre of the commission is a new 21-minute quadrophonic sound work, specially composed for Tate Britain. This soundscape incorporates field recording from under and on top of the Thames, in and outside of London, and takes the listener on a sonic journey from inland to ocean. The light and sound elements of the work are site specific and have been choreographed in situ to give the impression that the building has become possessed. Manifesting these environmental changes through the material and aural changes to the site, the commission appears to transport visitors through time and place to a parallel prehistoric world or post-apocalyptic future.
When researching Tate Britain’s site on the riverbank, Hardy discovered that it was once marshland, referred to in medieval times as ‘Thorney Island’, and that by 2100 it may again be submerged underwater by rising sea levels. Hardy also heard of archaeological evidence that hippos, jungle cats and mammoths once lived in central London. These relate to the artist’s interest in the Thames as a mysterious natural entity that has long been a site of ritualistic activity. The effects of these pasts and futures are played out across the façade through a choreographed sequence of light, sound and sculpture. While the grand façade of Tate’s Millbank entrance was designed to convey power and longevity, Hardy treats it as a found object, and in imagining its destruction she highlights its fragility both as a man-made structure and a site of authority.
Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, said: ‘I’m very excited to see another transformation of Tate Britain’s iconic façade. Anne Hardy has created something that is at once fantastically imaginative and urgently topical, reminding us not only of the changing seasons but also of the changing climate.’
Tate Britain also opens three new free displays next week as part of its ongoing Spotlights programme. These include a selection of works by Turner Prize winning artist Lubaina Himid, the inventive collages created by Nigel Henderson between the 1940s and 1970s, and three avant-garde films from the 1930s by experimental filmmaker Len Lye.
Winter Commission: Anne Hardy: The Depth of Darkness, the Return of the Light is curated by Linsey Young, with Daisy Gould. It is supported by the Tate Britain Winter Commission 2019 Supporters Circle, with kind assistance from Maureen Paley. This is the third in Tate Britain’s series of annual outdoor commissions to mark the winter season, following works by Alan Kane in 2017 and Monster Chetwynd in 2018.
About Anne Hardy
British artist Anne Hardy lives and works in London. Hardy’s work includes sculptural installation, photography and audio. She has exhibited in the UK and internationally, with recent solo exhibitions at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2018), Leeds Art Gallery (2018), Art Night London (2017), Modern Art Oxford (2015) and The Common Guild, Glasgow (2015). Hardy took up artist residencies at Camden Arts Centre, London in 2011 and Live in the Studio at Modern Art Oxford in 2014.
New Displays at Tate Britain
2 Dec 2019 – 5 Apr 2020
Tate Britain will bring together a selection of works by Turner Prize winning artist Lubaina Himid (b.1954), focusing on her painted scenes of women together. From her earliest depictions of this subject, in the series Freedom and Change 1984, to more recent work, Himid’s paintings have explored the relationships between women and their connections through dialogue.
Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage
2 Dec 2019 – 5 Apr 2020
Nigel Henderson’s (1917-1985) highly inventive collage work combined printed matter, photography and paint, bringing visual scraps of modern British life into dialogue with imagery from other places and periods. His intricately layered collages reflected on the passing of time, from natural decay to the ruins of war, and cast a critical eye on contemporary images of consumerism and aspiration.
Len Lye: Film Animations 1935-7
2 Dec 2019 – 17 May 2020
New Zealand artist Len Lye (1901-80) was at the forefront of avant-garde film-making in London. Tate Britain will showcase three of the animated films he made for the Film Unit of the General Post Office, originally screened in public cinemas in the mid-1930s, which brought experimental, abstract and surreal moving images to a far wider audience than ever before.