Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE at the National Gallery from 15th March to 28th May 2018

Exhibition Review – Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE at the National Gallery from 15th March to 28th May 2018

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The National Gallery presents a new exhibition entitled Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE  which is part of an unprecedented collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, and National Gallery, which will see all three galleries open distinct exhibitions with the artist Tacita Dean in 2018. The three exhibitions, Tacita Dean: LANDSCAPE, PORTRAIT, STILL LIFE will be shaped by artist’s response to the individual character of each institution and explore genres traditionally associated with painting – landscape at the Royal Academy of Arts, portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery and still life at the National Gallery.

Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE provides the unusual situation that Dean acts as both artist and curator in this National Gallery exhibition. In the role of curator Dean brings together a diverse selections of works to explore the genre from 17th century paintings like Francisco de Zurbarán’s Cup of Water and a Rose (about 1630) to contemporary pieces in a variety of mediums, by the artist herself or by her contemporaries like Thomas Demand, Roni Horn and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Dean uses the exhibition to question some of the concepts of still life and examine its legacy within the history of art.

Dean illustrates that placing pictures together with some similarities in subject matter can convey very different meanings that change over time. Walter Sickert’s A Dead Hare  and John Craxton’s Hare on the Table (1944-45) illustrate that the symbolism of death and mortality prevalent in early paintings can be drastically changed in more modern interpretations.

Cy Twombly’s Bread (2004) sandwiched between two old interpretations of still life’s featuring bread is another example of how religious or cultural symbolism changes over time. 

Some works show that taking still life outdoors with a landscape behind can have a transforming effect. 

Dean contributes a new film diptych made especially for the exhibition, ‘Ideas for Sculpture in a Setting’, and ‘Prisoner Pair’ (2008, 16mm).

This small free fascinating exhibition offers the opportunity for visitors to question some of the fundamental concepts of ‘still life’. Dean suggests that the concept of still life is one that often changes over the history of art with associated symbolism part of the appeal of the genre. However it could be argued that the genre is open to more modern interpretations which can set the genre free, sometimes quite literally by taking the ‘still life’ outdoors into the landscape.

Visiting London Guide Rating –  Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the National Gallery website here

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