RA Tacita Dean Landscape Exhibition


So I had read about Tacita Dean’s drawings before this exhibition and her love for all things analogue, so I was intrigued and a little daunted to see some of her work up close and personal. Which I guess, for landscape is the enveloping purpose: to swallow up the viewer in all things powerful and sublime. I have to admit – I felt awed by an avalanche of form. Not simply by the scale but by the materiality itself. Some of her work is done on  board, plates and some on slate. Slate itself is landscape. Isn’t it?

The viewer is drawn in because all at once you are looking at a landscape and then a drawing and then some words on a ‘blackboard’ and it makes sense suddenly as both physical materiality and thought. The inclusion of the almost washed out words creates psychological landscapes or word landmarks of the artist in process. Her identity or thoughts become fused with the landscape. There is a definite sense of nostalgia and a respect for traditional mediums (which I had already gathered from her love of analogue). But there was something else about the clouds that drew me in, more than her rock collection or the tree painted in gauche. Although I must say, I spent quite a long time looking at what are technically ‘mutant’ four, five, six, seven, eight and nine leaf clovers… Luck on a large scale in perspex boxes just didn’t seem so lucky anymore. It was an archive and collection. Someone behind me suggested you could get these on eBay now and suddenly the magic vanished like an exposed card trick.

But those clouds … They represented something murky, even erased in white chalk. It was a type of creative defiance, painting on boards reserved in the past for letters and an educational system alone. They are soft and white against a very cold and hard surface. They are thought and dream in one moment. They were my favourite.

And the film? It was interesting. I found it hard to follow two narratives at the same time but suspect that was the point. Often we have a narrative in our head that contrasts with that spoken in reality. Usually I am good at multitasking but this perplexed me: two voices juxtaposed. Not just two voices, but multiple narratives in myth and identity. I had to concentrate. I enjoyed having my eye or my view played with by splicing and two films run simultaneously. I also loved the fire, moon and sunset metaphors that ran throughout the film. It was magic and autobiography told through myth and documentary.

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