Landscape as Reflection in British Contemporary Art

In: Reflective Landscapes of the Anglophone Countries

This article sets out to reconsider the place of landscape in British painting since the 1980s. In doing so, it aims at going against the grain of many common critical beliefs, particularly the one that opposes Land Art as radically modernist to neo-figurative painting seen as a return to the national tradition of landscape-painting. Analysing the works of such painters as Maurice Cockrill, Michael Andrews or Peter Doig, and focusing on the way their technical innovations question or blur landscape, one can see that landscape is not to be merely taken as the subject-matter of their oeuvre It is the tradition of landscape which the artists are interested in, as what allows for reflection over artistic practice, as well as experimentation on the relationship between viewer and artwork. Ultimately, as such aspects bring these painters close to the practice of other contemporary artists, like Julian Opie or Darren Almond, and give landscape both a passive and active status, as object and subject, landscape may appear as a reflection of/on the state of British art at the end of the twentieth century.