John Latham, ‘Five Sisters Bing’ 1976
John Latham
Five Sisters Bing 1976
© John Latham Estate, courtesy Lisson Gallery, London

On Land

Ruins do not stand in isolation; they are part of an environment and ecology, and may even define the wider landscape in which we discover them. In the past century many artists have explored ruinous territories both ancient and modern. In the 1930s Paul Nash photographed odd and anomalous features of the British landscape, finding a surrealist charge in these man-made and natural objects. Later conceptual and land artists self-consciously and sometimes humorously returned to the history of ruin aesthetics. In the mid-1970s John Latham, as part of the Artist Placement Group, proposed redesignating five shale heaps in Scotland as sculpture to turn them into post-industrial monuments. In his series Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, made in the early 1980s, Keith Arnatt visited and photographed sites celebrated by the pioneer of the British picturesque, William Gilpin.