Force of Nature Takes Shape

Dec 10 2012

Our Ruskin Curator, Louise Pullen offers an insight into the installation of the latest exhibition at the Millennium Gallery, Force of Nature: Picturing Ruskin's Landscape:

The Millennium Gallery will soon be opening its doors on our new exhibition. I’m currently writing from behind those doors, watching the installation coming on apace. Paintings by JMW Turner are now clamouring for attention next to Land, a massive floor piece by Kathy Prendergast, set purposely nearby to pick up the colours and themes. I’ve just finished installing Peter Layton’s glass forms, trying not to let nerves get the better of me as I set the heavy pieces in place. And I’m delighted to see GF Watts' Sunset – A Reminiscence on the wall; a brooding, sumptuous painting that was one of the first loan suggestions I brought to the table when we were putting the exhibition together.

Then of course there is John Ruskin, whose imagination and dogmatic writings are the ‘brains’ behind the exhibition themes. This is not an exhibition about Ruskin as such, but it is his ideas and writings that have influenced our choices. We look at his belief that it is an artist’s understanding of detail that allows them to express the enormity of landscape. Works that inspired him, were commissioned by him, or reflect his views are shown together expressing his love for nature and the effect it can have on us. Ruskin had a strong belief that by spending time looking closely at nature, and by spending even more time representing it in art, people would learn to respect landscape and nature more. Moreover he hoped that people would find a greater happiness in life by looking for beauty in the world around us – the colours, textures and shapes of nature, and the glory of creation and life-cycles.

Putting up this exhibition after an autumn of amazing leaf colour and some changeful and startling weather patterns has brought home the extreme conditions some of the artists whose works are represented worked in or recalled in creating their pieces; Andoya, a photograph taken by Dan Holdsworth within the Arctic circle is a case in point. But I’m now looking forward to seeing one of our loans from Tate, John Everett Millais’ The Moon is Up, and Yet it is not Night installed. It is a mist filled scene, full of shadows and flickering light, and it perfectly captures the current feel of late autumn with the chill of winter now pressing in. I hope that visitors to the exhibition will not only enjoy the moods and magnificence of nature as expressed by works in the exhibition, but will leave wanting to take a new look at the beauty of the landscapes that surround us in reality.

Force of Nature: Picturing Ruskin’s Landscape opens at the Millennium Gallery on 15 December 2012 and continues until 23 June 2013.

Image: Museums Sheffield's Ruskin Curator Louise Pullen with Landscape on Water (1840-5) by JMW Turner


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