May 19 — August 12, 2018
It is difficult to describe, in British artist Tacita Dean’s work, the nuanced interweaving of highly achieved craft with a sense of magic, or that which is beyond human control. “All the things I am attracted to are just about to disappear,” the artist has said, in reference to the content as well as the material forms of her work — predilections that carry through Landscape at the Royal Academy, the third and final part of a trilogy of recent exhibitions across London institutions. At The National Portrait Gallery was Portrait, while The National Gallery hosted Still Life, and here in the RA’s new suite of rooms devoted to contemporary displays, Landscape similarly engages with an age-old genre to new, expansive, and thought-provoking ends.
What is here outwardly a focus on the prefix land, might equally include other particular, idiosyncratic environments: mindscape, for instance, or moonscape, sky, time, memory, present, past, and futurescape. A snowy peak looms, drawn in chalk and painstaking detail across nine joined blackboards that measure twelve by twenty-four feet. Entitled Montafan Letter, the work refers to a letter that describes a wave of avalanches that occurred in the Austrian Alps in 1689: the first buried a village, the second covered the priest who was officiating at the funeral of the dead, and a third uncovered him. Dean’s immense chalk drawing — a form she has worked in frequently — seems to gleam and glimmer, as light reflects off snow and ice.