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Indepth Arts News:

"Landscape? New Definitions through the Contemporary Art Society"
2002-11-23 until 2003-01-12
Towner Gallery
Eastbourne, , UK United Kingdom

Landscape? offers a diverse and challenging set of responses to world around us through the work of eight, significant contemporary artists; Ceal Floyer, Graham Gussin, James Hugonin, Joachim Koester, Tania Kovats, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Jem Southam and Zoe Walker. The exhibition, curated by the Towner, presents a selection of recent contemporary acquisitions and offers a refreshing and fascinating insight into the current directions and dynamics of the Towner collection.

The acquisitions have been made over a four-year period and are the direct result of the Towner’s inclusion in the prestigious £3.5 million Special Collection Scheme run by the Contemporary Art Society. The scheme enables 15 regional museums and galleries to develop challenging collections of contemporary art which respond to and compliment their historic collections. It is a highly significant programme for regional galleries, collections and their audiences and Landscape? is firm evidence of it’s effect.

With Eastbourne’s precarious proximity to the big nature of Beachy Head and the Sussex Downs, landscapes, in all media, have always been a dominant feature of the Towner collection. The works in Landscape? are, therefore, an extension of this perennial policy and have been purchased not to replicate what already exists in the collection but to reflect contemporary artistic connection with the environment and to challenge the very concept of the landscape.

With works in a range of media from sculpture through to photography the collective vision of Landscape? appears to be a far cry from the topographical, painted landscapes of Constable and Turner. However, on closer inspection it becomes clear that despite appearances the artists in Landscape? are often exploring the same fundamental notions of the dual fragility and monumentality of nature that pre-occupied the bygone masters of the landscape genre.

Strike is the first piece of three-dimensional work by Tania Kovats to enter a public collection and presents a scaled-down, yet monumental and weather-beaten landscape. The sculpture is reminiscent of a jagged and dangerous cliff face and salutes the unseen and intangible forces of nature that give ‘an edge’ to the landscape. The piece is a testament to the relentless change of nature and the environment, although non-specific, is dangerous.

By contrast, the photographic work of Jem Southam depicts identifiable places bound by a certain air of clam. The ‘edge’ is, however, clearly visible and the division between the sea and the land is resolutely, but naturally, defined. In Door, Ceal Floyer (a recent recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Awards for Artists) creates an entirely conceptual, artificial and yet profound illusion to the landscape. The piece, which is the first work by Floyer to enter a British collection, challenges our expectations of ‘the edge’ and provides a wholly unexpected conclusion to the exhibition.

Rut Blees Luxemburg,
Test of Courage 2000,
C-print, 180x240cm

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