In the newly opened Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries at Royal Academy, London, Tacita Dean explores “landscape” in its broadest sense: intimate collections of natural found objects, a mountainous blackboard drawing and a series of cloudscapes in chalk on slate. RA delve into the themes from the show and the materiality of the works on display.
A: Why did you decide to curate this show now? What is RA particularly looking forward to showcasing as part of Dean’s wider works?
RA: Tacita Dean is widely considered to be one of Britain’s great living artists, and Tim Marlow, the Royal Academy’s Artistic Director, had been wanting to work with the artist or a long time.
As a highlight, the RA is particularly looking forward to presenting Tacita Dean’s major new, experimental 35mm film, Antigone, shown as two simultaneous cinemascope projections. This quasi-narrative film features writer/poet Anne Carson and actor Stephen Dillane and combines multiple places, geologies and seasons into a spectacular cinematographic frame.
A: Why is Dean so interested in landscape as a phenomenon, and what do you think means in terms of today’s globalised world?
RA: The theme of landscape allows Dean to engage with fundamental ideas that are pertinent throughout her work: time, place, scale, memory, chance. Tacita Dean is an artist who really cares about now. Her devotion to analogue mediums, which she considers to be inseparably wedded to principles of honesty and truth, is both a political position and a timely one.
A: Could you discuss her process of using photochemical film?
RA: Tacita Dean uses photochemical 16 or 35mm film, as opposed to digital, as it embodies contact with the actual. To some extent photochemical film acts as a document – an index of what was before the camera on a specific day drawn with light onto the emulsion. In film, Dean finds a material resistance and discipline that are comparable with painting or drawing: it requires physical handling, cutting, splicing.
A: How does the artist look into innovation across various media?
RA: Tacita Dean uses her various mediums in an innovative way. In film, for example, she especially developed the aperture gate masking technique in order to capture different images from different locations side by side in the same frame. To achieve this, she has special masks made which are inserted inside the camera covering a part of the film frame and exposing another.
A: What types of works will be displayed in this exhibition?
RA: The exhibition comprises of ten works or groups of works in a wide range of mediums: intimate collections of natural found objects, a mountainous blackboard drawing and a series of cloudscapes in chalk on slate created especially for the exhibition.
A: How do they relate to each other both thematically and formally?
RA: The works in the exhibition all relate to the theme of landscape in the broadest sense, bringing in botany, cosmology, geology, natural phenomena and travel.
A: What do the works communicate in terms of human or geological narratives?
RA: Dean’s beautiful and poetic works ask us to slow down and consider our place in human, geological and cosmic temporal scales.
Tacita Dean: Landscape runs until 12 August at the Royal Academy, London. For more information, click here.
1. Tacita Dean, The Montafon Letter, 2017 (detail). Chalk on blackboard. 366 x 732 cm. Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland © Courtesy the artist.