This remarkable Arts Council touring exhibition, currently at the National Museum of Wales, explores Land Art in Britain in its early years.

Land Art in Britain during its early years.
Land Art in Britain during its early years.

Artwork was produced directly with and of the environment, writes Jan Taylor. The perception and understanding of the environment, its primal forces, its ephemeral nature, unique moments and particular individual events and places, all are experienced and portrayed.

There is no one method of approach, no primary material. Each artist’s knowledge of their material, of how it will respond, of its characteristics, is fundamental, yet also the uniqueness of each piece, of its quirks, of the unexpected is experienced and demonstrated. Some artists create using nature’s materials, earth, tree, ice, landform, the diurnal and seasonal change, others record nature and the individual’s interaction with it, and others look at society’s effect upon the environment, of the detritus left or the damage inflicted. The ephemeral may be documented as a photograph, map or film, which in turn becomes an artwork in its own right.

Time and attention are demanded. The viewer is challenged and asked to reconsider what they think they see, to perceive not just to look, to understand.  Thought is required. The works may demonstrate the disconnection with, and the non-perception of, the environment, and the subsequent discussion, internally or otherwise, may be uncomfortable and disquieting but equally may be joyous.

This exhibition can remind us of what we as landscape architects do, of the implications of our work.

It shows us the necessity to perceive, to understand, to give attention to the environment and to our materials and our interactions with them. It can get to the fundamental of the nature of our work, of the decisions made and the choices taken; ultimately of the why.


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