'Soulscapes', an ambitious exhibition of landscape art that will expand and redefine the genre

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, February 25, 2024

'Soulscapes', an ambitious exhibition of landscape art that will expand and redefine the genre
Hurvin Anderson, Limestone Wall, 2020. © Hurvin Anderson. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photo: Richard Ivey.

LONDON.- An ambitious exhibition, starting tomorrow, will explore new interpretations of landscape art, through some of the most essential voices working in contemporary art. Dulwich Picture Gallery will be presenting Soulscapes, a major exhibition of landscape art that will expand and redefine the genre. Featuring more than 30 contemporary works, it will span painting, photography, film, tapestry and collage from leading artists including Hurvin Anderson, Phoebe Boswell, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kimathi Donkor, Isaac Julien, Marcia Michael, Mónica de Miranda and Alberta Whittle, as well as some of the most important emerging voices working today.

Soulscapes will explore our connection with the world around us through the eyes of artists from the African Diaspora. It will consider the power of landscape art and reflect on themes of belonging, memory, joy and transformation.

The exhibition will open by examining the theme of belonging in relation to the natural world and consider the varied ways we experience the land and how this relates to our sense of identity, connection and safety. Limestone Wall (2020), a large-scale painting by Hurvin Anderson, depicts the tropical foliage of Jamaica and explores the artist’s relationship to his ancestral homeland. In the series A Pleasant Land. J. Samuel Johnson, & The Spectre of Unrecognised Black Figures (2023), photographer Jermaine Francis considers the issues that arise out of interactions with our everyday environments, positioning the Black figure in rural settings to instigate conversations around power, identity and the history of the English Landscape.

Reflecting on landscapes and memory, the exhibition will consider how artists have used the natural world to express personal histories. Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s lush multimedia piece, Cassava Garden (2015), layers images from fashion magazines, pictures of Nigerian pop stars, and samplings from family photo albums to represent a hybrid cultural identity. The Gallery’s mausoleum will be home to a site-specific installation of Phoebe Boswell’s I Dream of a Home I Cannot Know (2019), a meditative video work created over the course of six years that documents daily life in Zanzibar, a place of deep connection for the artist.

Soulscapes will celebrate the power of landscapes to evoke joy and pleasure, whether through the representation of personal experiences or through its expression in composition, colour and style. Paintings from Kimathi Donkor’s Idyl series (2016-2020) depict Black subjects free to be themselves within nature, hopeful visions that might be approached through the idea of Black Joy. Che Lovelace’s vibrant paintings, The Climber (2022) and Moonlight Searchers (2022), depict the flora, fauna, figures, landscapes and rituals of the Caribbean.

Finally, the exhibition will explore the transformative power of nature to stimulate healing, renewal and wellbeing. Works by Alberta Whittle manifest self-compassion and collective care as key methods in battling anti-Blackness; Whittle invites viewers to interact with her work, and to imagine different futures. In Unforseen Journey of Self-Discovery (2020), a tapestry by Kimathi Mafafo, a woman emerges from a cocooned veil of white muslin, finding her way into the vibrant, colourful and healing space of the natural world.

The exhibition is curated by Lisa Anderson, Managing Director of the Black Cultural Archives and founder of Black British Art. Anderson said:

“Soulscapes grew from the periods of enforced ‘lockdown’ that millions experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the same period, the question of racial equality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement helped ignite conversation about inclusion and social justice. These historical moments gave way to new possibilities for landscape art, which is being interrogated by artists in new and expansive ways. At a time when global consciousness has been profoundly attuned to the precariousness and power of the natural world in our lives, I hope this exhibition will challenge perceptions of our relationship with nature.”

Jennifer Scott, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery, said:

“Soulscapes marks a new approach to landscape art. Featuring some of the greatest artists of our day, it’s an exciting opportunity to re-present the genre within Dulwich Picture Gallery, the home of the celebrated European landscape masters of the past. This visually stunning exhibition highlights the contemporary relevance of nature in art and its universal possibilities of healing, reflection and belonging.”

Artist Alberta Whittle said:

“Within my practice, thinking about the land and the natural world as sources of indigenous, pre-colonial knowledge(s) has become a pathway to explore different ways of dreaming new ways of being. Landscape art can gather together less recognised or forgotten relationships between humanity and the land as well as become a lightning rod for galvanising conservation, especially with devastation from climate colonialism looming against the horizon.”

Artist Kimathi Donkor, said:

“My ‘Idyl’ paintings celebrate tender and contemplative moments shared by families and friends as they enjoy serene meadows, lakes, mountains, forests, rivers and beaches together. As an artist who has often focussed on ‘the struggle’, these works represent hopeful visions that honour what the fulfilment of black liberation might sometimes feel like -- even if only fleetingly.”

Dulwich Picture Gallery, founded in 1811, is the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery. It cares for and displays an outstanding collection of Old Master paintings within Sir John Soane’s pioneering architecture. As an independent gallery, which receives no regular public funding, it pursues its founders’ purpose of presenting art ‘for the inspection of the publick’ while engaging as many people as possible, of all ages and backgrounds, through a creative programme. Entering the gallery space visitors discover a surprising and contemplative experience that encourages the discovery of personal connections with historic works of art – a place to Find Yourself in Art.

Dulwich Picture Gallery
February 14th - June 2nd, 2024

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