Tate Liverpool Radical Landscapes explores Britain's countryside


Tate Liverpool’s 2022 summer show explores the British landscape – but if you’re expecting a succession of picturesque Constables, Gainsboroughs and Turners you may be in for a surprise.

While John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough do make an appearance in the new exhibition, Radical Landscapes takes the great outdoors as a starting point to pose difficult questions about our connection to the rural landscape and who has the freedom to access, inhabit and enjoy it.

It also considers, thorough artists’ eyes, how the landscape has – and is – being used, how it shapes identity, and the effect of the human impact on the natural world.

More than 150 diverse works from the Tate collection and other institutions, including the Museum of English Rural Life, National Museums Liverpool and the BFI, have been drawn together by curators Darren Pih and Laura Bruni to explore the varied and wide-ranging themes.

They include pieces by Jeremy Deller, John Nash, Edward Burra, Tacita Dean, Monica Ross, Gustav Metzger, Eric Ravilious, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Angus McBean and Derek Jarman.

Darren Pih says: “It was an idea which was pitched just before lockdown and the pandemic. It was more about Brexit and borders, and a time when Britain was spiritually and culturally turning its back on continental Europe how could Tate create an exhibition that harnesses landscape art but makes it outward looking and positive?

“Then lockdown happened and access to green space became fundamental to wellbeing, and that idea tied into it.”

The exhibition’s sections include Our Common Land – which features works marking the trespass of the Kinder Scout in 1932, works which examine the ‘militarisation’ of the countryside and the Greenham Common protests, Art in a Climate Crisis with references to Twyford Down and HS2, Land Use and Identity, Ancient Landscapes, and Botany and Radical Gardening.

Meanwhile the outdoors comes indoors in Ruth Ewan’s immersive living installation Back to the Fields 2015-2022 (above) which brings to life the French Republican Calendar - which was designed by artists, poets and horticulturalists after the French Revolution – in 360 objects which denote days of the year through its changing seasons, symbolising the return of the land to the people.

And a complementary exhibition catalogue includes contributions by writers, campaigners, naturalists, environmentalists and social historians who offer a diverse series of voices and views about the landscape.

Radical Landscapes is at Tate Liverpool until September 4.