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Tower of Babel work in progress in Roelof Louw's studio, Cape Town
Tower of Babel work in progress in Roelof Louw's studio, Cape Town, 2013

Joy Sleeman

Tower of Babel in Roeluf Louw's studio, Cape Town, 2013
Tower of Babel in Roeluf Louw's studio, Cape Town, 2013

Joy Sleeman

Robert Smithson, Amarillo Ramp (1973)
Robert Smithson, Amarillo Ramp (1973)

Joy Sleeman

Uncommon Ground Exhibition Catalogue
Uncommon Ground Exhibition Catalogue
Joy Sleeman
Joy Sleeman

Slade School of Fine Art
University College London
Gower Street


I studied History of Art at UCL (1987-1990) and have a PhD from the University of Leeds (Department of Fine Art, 1995). I have taught art history and theory at the Slade since 1995. From 2014-17 I was Faculty Graduate Tutor for Arts & Humanities. My current role at the Slade is as Director of Research.

My history of academic appointment includes a year as Henry Moore Fellow in the History of Sculpture in the History of Art Department at UCL (1996-97) and, from 2015-18, as visiting professor of the history of sculpture at the University of Lincoln.

I was on the editorial board of the Sculpture Journal (2000-19) and have been a member of AICA (international association of art critics) since 2014.

My career has been spent mostly in departments of fine art and working alongside practising artists. I write, curate and lecture on aspects of land art and sculpture for a broad constituency that includes the public audiences of art galleries, museums and other arts organisations as well as academic contexts. I have a strong commitment to public engagement and communicating and developing scholarship and understanding of art related to landscape and environment in public arenas and artistic communities internationally and locally.

I have given lectures and public talks on land art and related subjects at galleries, museums and universities in the UK: including Arnolfini, Bristol; Northlands Glass, Lybster, Scotland; Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Jerwood Space, London; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; Coventry University; University of York; University of Southampton and University of Warwick and abroad: including Hong Kong University; UNTREF, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rice University, Houston, Texas; California State University, Long Beach and the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, USA.

Research Summary

My research concerns the histories of sculpture and landscape, especially land art, a contested field of art practice that continues to inspire artists and provoke debate among scholars. Land art was one of a cluster of new terms that emerged in the late 1960s to describe art works made with a new attitude to an old (and, to some, distinctly old-fashioned) area of art making: landscape. In the 1960s artists began to produce new and challenging works made directly in and of the stuff of the landscape. This has been my area of research interest since 1990 and I am acknowledged as an expert in the field and on land art in Britain in particular.

Since 2006 I have also worked collaboratively on land art. Initially (2006-08) in an AHRC-funded research network as part of the AHRC's Landscape and Environment programme, and subsequently with the two other steering committee members of the network (Nicholas Alfrey, University of Nottingham) and Ben Tufnell (independent writer, curator and gallerist), the Arts Council Collection and Hayward Touring as co-curators of the the exhibition Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979, the largest survey of this kind of work in Britain to date. It toured to four UK venues between May 2013 and June 2014.

Since my doctoral studies in the early 1990s my work has sought to challenge a persistent view in much literature on land art that this work was predominantly American, with sub-movements in other parts of Western Europe (mainly in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands). I aimed first to re-emphasise the crucial contribution of British artists to land art's formation and to re-appraise the crucial contribution of Anglo-American and other international artistic exchange (particularly across Europe and North America) in the emergence and development of this new art of landscape.

Over the last decade or so my work on Anglo-American artistic relations has taken me to the USA and more recently, in a pattern perceptible across much art historical research into twentieth century and contemporary art, my research has embraced a wider context that both extends and challenges the dominant Western focus, looking, for example, to South America (Argentina) and Asia (Hong Kong).

In 2012-14 I was a project researcher for Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator at the Getty in Los Angeles, one outcome of which, a book published in 2015, includes my chapter exploring the relationship between Alloway and one of the pioneers of land art in America in the 1960s, Robert Smithson. I was advisor and wrote a catalogue essay for an exhibition, David Lamelas: A Life of Their Own, at the Art Museum of California State University, Long Beach and at MALBA (Buenos Aires) as part of the Getty's initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (Los Angeles/Latin America). Lamelas was one of the artists included in Uncommon Ground, as was the South African-based sculptor Roelof Louw who was the subject of my book project, Five Sites for Five Sculptors: Roelof Louw and British Sculpture since the 1960s (Ridinghouse: 2018).

In 2023 my research on Anglo-American artistic relations routed me to sites in England and Wales where, as a 2023 Holt/Smithson Foundation Research Fellow, I researched and revisited the travels and work of American artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson in England and Wales in 1969.

Teaching Summary

In my role as Professor of Art History and Theory at the Slade I work with my colleagues devising, developing and delivering a programme that is integral to the studio-based courses at the Slade and which supports and informs students' study of fine art practice, theory and history. Together with my colleagues in History and Theory of Art, we offer a research-based programme that is responsive to current developments in fine art and serves to introduce students to the histories and contexts which inform and locate their art and in which, as practicing artists, their work will be understood and contextualised.

My current teaching includes an MA course called Art Writing / Writing Art which takes both theoretical and more practical workshop approaches to writing, reading and researching. Since 2015/16 this course has included consideration of art writing in a time of climate change, including recent - and not-so-recent - writings on topics such as global warming and the Anthropocene as they relate to writing and the practice of fine art.

I supervise MA written research projects.


Expanding Landscapes: Painting After Land Art
2022 - Herstorcombe Gallery

Expanding Landscapes: Painting After Land Art brings together historical works by artists associated with Land Art, with contemporary artists who engage directly with landscape through the language of painting.

Works by artists associated with Land Art including Nancy Holt, Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Smithson, Richard Long, Michelle Stuart, Roger Ackling and Marie Yates, are on show alongside contemporary works by painters Hannah Brown, Sam Douglas, Onya McCausland, Rebecca Partridge, Damian Taylor, Fred Sorrell and Jessica Warboys. Prints from Ingrid Pollard’s Landscape Trauma series mediate between the contemporary and historical aspects of the exhibition.

‘In the 1960s and 70s many artists left the studio and went into the landscape, using both the physical materials of the land and their direct experience of it as the source and inspiration for new art works. Although considered novel at the time, we can trace a history of Land Art back to Romanticism, where observations of light, time and human perception were seen as ways of thinking about nature and our relationship to environment. Works by artists associated with Land Art, such as Nancy Holt and Richard Long, expanded this language by creating the possibility of an immediate physical experience, as well as the representation of their works through film, drawing and photography’, say the curators of the show Rebecca Partridge and Joy Sleeman.

The exhibition explores the romantic motifs of earth, sea and sky through a variety of materials and processes, including the physical experience of landscape as a creative act in itself. Sharing a concern for the vulnerability of nature and the importance of our attention to it, for materiality and the record of time, for all these artists and their predecessors the experience of being in the landscape is at the heart of the work

Charcoal Works
2016 - Hardwick Gallery, University of Gloucestershire

harcoal Works is an exhibition of commissioned artworks that have been produced with the charcoaled remains of the iconic oak sculpture ‘Place’, that stood on the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail for 29 years.
In October 2015 a charcoal ‘clamp’ was built on the same location in the forest where the oak sculpture had stood. For three days and two nights, beneath a huge earth covered mound, an intense heat steamed, smoked and slowly carbonised the wood.
The exhibition at Hardwick Gallery brings the recycling of a single artwork into multiple elements full circle, and Onya McCausland has invited 16 artists to produce new work from the charcoal according to their diverse practices. The exhibition includes works by Edward Allington, Sophie Bouvier Auslander, Jess Bryant, Marcin Gawin & Malgorzata Lucyna Zajac, Joy Gregory, Tess Jaray, James Keith, Sam Llewellyn- Jones, Lisa Milroy, Onya McCausland, Jayne Parker, Lotte Scott, Joy Sleeman, Andrew Stonyer, Kay Tabernacle and Jo Volley.

Uncommon Ground: Land art in Britain 1966-1979
2013 - Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton, UK; National Gallery of Wales, Cardiff, UK; Mead Gallery, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK; Longside gallery, Wakefield, UK

After London
2011 - Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, London, UK

Victorian Greenwich resident Richard Jefferies’ prescient 1885 novel, After London imagines the site of London as a contaminated forbidden zone, a flooded swamp, which, now poisoned, swallows up unfortunates and the unwitting in search of treasure. As such, it finds a late 20th Century echo in the Zones of the Strugatsky Brothers' Roadside Picnic, Tarkovsky's Stalker, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and continued relevance in the context of climate change today.

Using the novel as a starting point, visual artist John Timberlake and writer and art historian Joy Sleeman have developed a dialogue around their shared interests of landscape art, science fiction, and the changing perceptions of London’s doom. Fascinatingly, whether in fears of poisonous swamps, a nuclear bomb smuggled in a ship, or rising oceans, the Thames has remained a central element in these spectral fates.

Both Joy Sleeman’s critical writing and John Timberlake’s montage images reflect their shared interest in the changing nature of visualising landscape, from the ground based views of dioramas to the surveyed zones of aerial and satellite imaging, whilst also exploring the transformative role of imagination in forming our perspectives on the world.

Earth Moon Earth
2009 - Djanogly Gallery, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Timed to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and the first landing of men on the moon, this exhibition brings together the work of two artists who have addressed the idea of the connections between earth, space and the moon. It sets up a dialogue between a seminal work of 1969 by David Lamelas, his film A Study of the relationships Between Inner and Outer Space, and a very recent work, the boldly-conceived installation by Katie Paterson Earth-Moon-Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon).

Other works, documents and objects were included in the exhibition to suggest some of the contexts in which the two main works might be understood. These ranged from images and commemorative ephemera of the Apollo era to works by artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s, showing how they engaged with a sense of a suddenly expanded world, but also one in which the paradoxical legacy of the Apollo missions was a rediscovery of Earth itself. Other works looked back to earlier visions of the moon in British art and science. Two pastel studies of the moon by the portraitist and amateur astronomer John Russell were particularly notable.


Roelof Louw
- Book , Ridinghouse , London UK 2019/01/01

Nancy Holt "Trail Markers" (1969), or, the walk from Wistman's Wood
- Internet Publication , 2019/01/01

Restoring some period color to Roelof Louw's pyramid of oranges (1967)
- Chapter in London art worlds , published by Pennsylvania University Press , edited by Applin J,Spencer C,Tobin A 2018/01/01

Siete escenas y catorce fotogramas de la obra de David Lamelas
- Chapter in David Lamelas con vida propria , published by Malta museo de arte latinoamericano de Buenos Aires , Buenos Aires, Argentina , edited by Newhouse K,Herrera MJ 2018/03/01

Does The World Exist, When I’m Not There?
- Book , Laconic , Berlin 2017/01/07

Elegiac inscriptions
- Chapter in The Garden at War Deception, Craft and Reason at Stowe , published by Paul Holberton , London , edited by Black J 2017/06/01

Seven scenes and fourteen stills from the work of David Lamelas
- Chapter in David Lamelas: a life of their own , published by University Art Museum, CSULB , Long Beach, California, US 2017/09/01

The possibility of an island
- Chapter in 'Does the world exist when I'm not there? the going nowhere trilogy: 1995-2016' , published by Kunstverein Springhornhof , Neuenkirchen (bei Soltau), Germany 2016/01/01

Forest art works
- Chapter in Jerwood open forest: Rebecca Beinart, Magz Hall, David Rickard, David Turley , published by Jerwood Charitable Foundation , London , edited by Skipper H,Williams S 2016/12/01

An affective situation
- Conference Memory, sentiment, body, space, object: dialogues across and between dance and art 2015/05/01

Lawrence Alloway, Robert Smithson, and earthworks
- Chapter in Lawrence Alloway Critic and Curator , published by Getty Research Institute , Los Angeles US 2015/07/01

Power lines: energy materialized in land art in Britain
- Conference Third annual cultures of energy research symposium, center for energy and environmental research in the human sciences 2014/04/01

Uncommon ground: land art in Britain 1966-1979
- Book , Hayward Publishing , London UK , edited by Monem N,Perry C,Robson F 2013/01/01

Review: 'Phillip Kaiser and Miwon Kwon, Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974
- Journal Article for Sculpture Journal Vol. 1 , published by Liverpool University Press , Liverpool, UK 2013/01/01

Oranges is not the only sculpture: Roelof Louw and international sculpture connections in London
- Conference London art worlds: mobile, contingent and ephemeral networks, 1966-1979 2013/11/01

Paper entitled 'Curating land art'
- Conference Re-Visiting Land Art 2013/05/11

The zone after London
- Journal Article for Transmission Annual , published by Artwords , London UK , edited by Kivland S,Lester JJ 2012/01/01

To the ends of the earth: art and environment
- Journal Article for Tate Papers Vol. 17 , published by Tate , London UK , edited by Daniels S,Alfrey N 2012/05/11

The yearbook of comparative literature
- Journal Article for The yearbook of comparative literature , published by the department of comparative literature, Indiana university and the university of Toronto press , Toronto, Canada 2012/01/01

Jonathan Anderson: coal dust mandala
- Book , Carmarthen UK 2012/04/01

The New Art Hayward gallery London 1972: new as compromise or when what happens around the exhibition is as interesting as what happens in the exhibition
- Journal Article for the sculpture journal 2012/01/01

From land art to the anthropocene
- Chapter in Modern British Sculpture , published by Royal Academy Books , London UK , edited by Curtis P,Wilson K 2011/04/01

New as compromise, or when what happens around the exhibition is as interesting as what happens in the exhibition
- Conference New British Sculpture 2011/01/01

- Book , Jerwood Visual Arts , London UK , edited by Manson S 2011/11/01

"Like two guys discovering Neptune": transatlantic dialogues in the emergence of land art
- Chapter in Anglo-American exchange in postwar sculpture, 1945-1975 , published by Getty Publications , Los Angeles, US , edited by Peabody R 2011/01/01

Paper entitled 'Getting back on track: reconnecting to some earlier histories of landscape and environment or, running out of gas in Nevada', for Art and Environment
- Conference Art and Environment 2010/06/26

Land Art and the Moon Landing
- Journal Article for Journal of Visual Culture Vol. 3 , published by Sage publications 2009/12/01

Elegiac inscription: a discussion of words in the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay and Richard Long
- Journal Article for Sculpture Journal Vol. 2 , published by Liverpool University Press 2009/01/01

- Book , Djanogly Art Gallery, University of Nottingham , Nottingham 2009/01/01

Framing the outdoors: landscape and land art in Britain, 1973-1977
- Journal Article for Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes Vol. 1 , published by Routledge 2009/01/01

Paper entitled 'The conditions [sic.] of sculpture'
- Conference United Enemies 2009/03/06

'Like Two Guys Discovering Neptune': Trans-Atlantic Dialogues in the Emergence of Land art
- Conference Anglo-American Exchange in Postwar Sculpture, 1945-1975 2008/01/01

Drawing the Line: a Round Table on Rebecca Horn
- Journal Article for Papers of Surrealism Vol. 5 , published by AHRC Centre for Studies of Surrealism and its Legacies 2007/01/01

The Sculpture of William Tucker
- Book , Lund Humphries and the Henry Moore Foundation , London 2007/08/01

'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)
- Conference Sculpture in Arcadia: gardens, parks and woodlands as settings for sculptural encounters from the 18th to 21st century, a symposium organised by the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Reading 2007/02/26

1977. A walk across the park, into the forest and back to the garden: The Sculpture Park in Britain
- Chapter in Sculpture and the Garden , published by Ashgate , London , edited by Eyres P,Russell F 2006/06/01

A Day in the Life of 'Land Art'
- Conference Lost in Space: Topographies, Geographies, Ecologies, organised by Stour Valley Arts at Canterbury Cathedral International Study Centre , Canterbury 2006/02/24

Land Art - The Movie - Moving Pictures
- Conference New Research into Conceptualism in Europe , organised by Norwich Gallery NSAD , Norwich 2005/01/01

A Twilight Place: Land Art: A Short History
- Chapter in King's Wood: A Context , published by Stour Valley Arts , Challock, Kent , edited by Kent LD,S 2005/01/01

When 'Studio' Went International: British Sculpture on the Published Page
- Conference 'British Sculpture Abroad' at Tate Britain, 12-13 March 2004 2004/01/01

Sculpture Squared
- Chapter in Sculpture in 20th Century Britain: Identity, Infrastructures, Aesthetics, Display, Reception , published by Henry Moore Institute , Leeds , edited by Curtis P,Raine D,Withey M,Wood J,Wasley V 2003/01/01

Sculpture Squared
- Chapter in Sculpture in 20th Century Britain , published by Henry Moore Institute Leeds , Leeds , edited by Curtis P 2003/01/01

Staring into holes in the ground: Earthworks: Art and the Landscape of the Sixties by Suzan Boettger
- Journal Article for Art History Vol. 5 2003/11/01

Richard Long
- Chapter in Sculpture in 20th Century Britain: A Guide to Sculptures in the Leeds Collection , published by Henry Moore Institute , Leeds , edited by Curtis P,Raine D,Withey M,Wood J,Wasley V 2003/01/01

Voice and technology
- Conference Voice and Technology 2002/01/01

Paper entitled 'A step in the landscape: land art in the gallery'
- Conference Art and Nature 2002/10/04

Paper entitled 'A crossing place: Richard Long and the river Avon'
- Conference Making Connections, Association of Art Historians' 27th Annual Conference 2001/01/01

Paper entitled 'Playing in the continuous present: Richard Long and Emilio Prini'
- Conference Arte Povera: Between Europe and America 2001/01/01

Crossing places
- Conference Paper entitled Crossing Places given at the symposium: Water, Art and Culture at Nottingham University, 1 Dec 2001/01/01

'like a compendium of stories told in the first person singular': Live in Your Head
- Journal Article for The Sculpture Journal 2001/01/01

Keynote, paper entitled '1977: a walk across the park, into the forest and back to the garden, meeting sculpture at the crossroads'
- Conference Sculpture and the Garden 1998/01/01

More and Less: The Early Work of Richard Long
- Book , Henry Moore Institute , Leeds , edited by Russell F 1997/01/01

In the Queen's Parlour, inspired by Tea and made of Gentlemen: British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century as 'Sculpture Anglaise'
- Journal Article for The Sculpture Journal Vol. 1 1997/01/01

paper entitled 'Sculpting silence: speaking sculpture'.
- Conference Sculpting Words 1997/01/01

Sculpting Words
- Conference Sculpting Words 1997/06/21

paper entitled 'Wordsworthian sermons in sticks and stones placed at my feet by a man who likes walking: Long walks in the landscape, a view from the 1970s'.
- Conference Is there a British art? 1996/01/01

'Project for Frieze by Philip J Reilly', essay for an exhibition catalogue.
- Chapter in Philip Reilly , published by Stadisches Galerie , Goppingen, Germany 1996/01/01

William Tucker: the language of a sculptor
- Book , Henry Moore Institute , Leeds 1995/01/01

Landscapes and bodies: Barbara Hepworth, a retrospective
- Journal Article for Women: a cultural review Vol. 1 , published by Oxford University Press , UK 1995/01/01

Ha-ha Hegel
- Journal Article for Chapman Vol. 78-79 , Edinburgh, UK , edited by Hendry J,Finlay A 1994/01/01

paper entitled 'Sculpting words: a discussion of the use of words in land art'
- Conference Association of Art Historians annual conference 1992/01/01