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Land art and the culture of landscape 1967-1977 (supported by an AHRC Network Grant)

Joint PI: Joy Sleeman

Formed out of a dialogue between the research interests of Nicholas Alfrey (Department of Art History, University of Nottingham) and Joy Sleeman, during the period of AHRC funding (2006-2008) the network was based at the University of Nottingham, included representatives from Nottingham (Alfrey), Slade (Sleeman) and Tate (Andrew Wilson) on its steering committee, and held two of the network's six research meetings at the Slade Research Centre, Woburn Square. The network is driven by dialogue: not only between the two principal investigators, but also between generations of artists; those making work during the period under investigation, when new approaches to landscape art transformed its production, display, dissemination and discussion; and those working today whose work relates to the legacies of that period of transformation as well as to longer histories of landscape art.

In addition to the network meetings Nicholas Alfrey and Joy Sleeman have jointly authored and presented a number of papers and publications and curated an exhibition, Earth-Moon-Earth at the Djanogly Gallery, University of Nottingham (20 June - 9 August 2009) and related satellite events in London during June and July 2009. In June 2010 Alfrey and Sleeman and other members of the network contributed to 'Art and Environment' the third and final conference of the Landscape and Environment Programme held at Tate Britain.

Network meetings 2007-2008

The first meeting was held at the Slade Research Centre, Woburn Square on 16 March 2007 and focused on work by artists based at the Slade. John Hilliard and Bruce McLean showed and discussed work made during the period 1967-1977. Recent work by Susan Collins and Simon Faithfull was discussed in the context of land art, and broader histories of landscape. Subsequent meetings of the network were held at Tate Britain, 27 June 2007; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 12 September 2007; University of Nottingham, 9 April 200 and Bristol, 17 June 2008. The final meeting on 23 October 2008 was a return to the Slade Research Centre with presentations of research and current work by Joy Sleeman, Katie Paterson (Slade MFA 2007), Brandon Taylor, Aliki Braine (Slade MFA), Rebecca Birch (Slade MFA 2007) and Simon Faithfull (Slade). One of the outcomes of this meeting was the invitation to make an exhibition at the Djanogly Gallery, University of Nottingham, realized in the summer of 2009 under the title Earth-Moon-Earth. The exhibition brought together works made by David Lamelas and Katie Paterson and was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing.

Outputs and publications by Nicholas Alfrey and Joy Sleeman

"The contemporary 'sculpture park' is not - and is not considered to be - an art garden, but an art gallery out-of-doors" (Ian Hamilton Finlay)

Paper for Sculpture in Arcadia: gardens, parks and woodlands as settings for sculptural encounters from the 18th to 21st century, University of Reading, February 2007; published as 'Framing the Outdoors: landscape and land art in Britain, 1973-1977', Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, 29:1, 2009.

'Art, Land Art and Fenland', for Liquid Landscapes

A session convened by Stephen Daniels for the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society with IBG, Royal Geographical Society, London, 31 August 2007.

Earth-Moon-Earth

Exhibition with accompanying catalogue, Djanogly Gallery, University of Nottingham, 20 June - 9 August 2009

Environments Reversal Revisited

A two-day event at Camden Arts Centre, London, revisiting the exhibition held in 1969 with two of the original participating artists, David Lamelas and Ivor Abrahams, in collaboration with Jayne Wilton (Slade MA student). The event included a screening of Lamelas's film A Study of the Relationships Between Inner and Outer Space (1969) in its original location, 28-29 June 2009. A small publication, designed by Jayne Wilton, was produced as documentation. 

Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979

A touring exhibition from the Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979 launches at Southampton Art Gallery on 9 May to 4 August 2013 and will tour the UK until 15 June 2014.

It is the most comprehensive exhibition of British Land Art to date and explores the unique characteristics of the new British landscape art in detail. It questions how landscape and nature came to be key concerns of Conceptual art in Britain and why many artists working in the UK during this period were interested in landscape.

Drawn primarily from the Arts Council Collection and supplemented by loans from other major UK collections as well as the artists themselves this exhibition takes a fresh look at British art between the late-1960s and late-1970s and includes some of the most important artists working in the UK in that period including Tony Cragg, Antony Gormley, Hamish Fulton, Gilbert & George, Richard Long, Anthony McCall and David Nash.

Curated by Nicholas Alfrey, (University of Nottingham) Joy Sleeman, (UCL Slade School of Fine Art) and Ben Tufnell, (Curator and Writer) Uncommon Ground will examine the meaning Land art might have in a British context, where landscape has long been a recognised characteristic of national art and identity.

The exhibition reveals the distinct forms that Land art took here in Britain: predominantly Conceptual and ephemeral, hand-made and organic. The key strategies developed in the UK included the photographic documentation of actions, the positioning of walking and travelling as creative acts, combined with an exploration of locality and a keen awareness of rural traditions and contexts. At the same time, the term ‘landscape’ was also being questioned and transformed by artists, provoking a renewed interest in older forms of landscape art, and in historic landscapes. From being seen as something old-fashioned and redundant, landscape became the ground of radical artistic experiment.

The exhibition launches at Southampton City Art Gallery 10 May to 4 August 2013 and will tour to The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (28 September to 5 January 2014) where it will be the first Land Art exhibition to go to Wales, Mead Gallery, University of Warwick (18 January – 8 March 2014) and Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (5 April to 15 June 2014). The first three venues on the tour will feature different works by these artists drawn from their own collections.

Artists featured in Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979

Roger Ackling, Keith Arnatt, Boyle Family, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Tony Cragg, Jan Dibbets, Barry Flanagan, Hamish Fulton, Gilbert & George, Andy Goldsworthy, Antony Gormley, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Susan Hiller, John Hilliard, Derek Jarman, David Lamelas, John Latham, Richard Long, Roelof Louw, Anthony McCall, Bruce McLean, Garry Fabian Miller, David Nash, Roger Palmer, David Tremlett.

A new publication accompanies the exhibition with essays by Nicholas Alfrey, Joy Sleeman and Ben Tufnell.

See the Uncommon Ground website and NottsArtHistory blog.

There are reviews in The Independent and The Financial Times.

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