Soulscapes; Dulwich Picture Gallery – until June 2

Photo: Jan Woolf


After decades of not thinking much about landscape painting, I am now obsessed with it – and am doing it. In the spirit of Courbet’s famous dictum ‘All art owes more to other art than it ever does to nature’ I am paying attention to landscape. Big time!  As I have my own show coming up in December ‘Landscape and the Inner World.’  Maybe as us old sods get older, we notice more the ‘er – sod to whence we return. So I am drawn, last Sunday to the exhibition Soulscapes at Dulwich Picture Gallery.  The title says so much so I won’t say it again, but the work has been curated to show inner worlds and place through painting. These scapes are from artists from the African diaspora, nailing the notion that landscape is the preserve of twee Europeans (my apologies to the greats – Turner, Constable and many others).

The works span painting, photography, film, textile and collage from leading artists including Hurvin Anderson, Phoebe Boswell, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kimathi Donkor, Isaac Julien, Marcia Michael, Mónica de Miranda and Alberta Whittle.  They explore our connection to the geographic natural world, and how it can transform us.  How landscape has the power to unlock feelings that only a particular place can do as it resonates with memory.  These are not just ‘greens that are good for you’ but ochres, reds, oranges and my favourite cobalt blue.  Personal works all, that send strong art messages about the land and how it comforts, inspires and transforms, even if you’ve never been out of Surrey.  I was particularly struck by Phoebe Boswell’s 2 channel video loop I Dream of a Home I Cannot Know, 2019. It is mesmerising and shown in the small mausoleum.  I took its from photo from inside the mausoleum – see above. 

What rich worlds there are in Soulscapes; earth, mineral colour, texture all packing down into our psyches making a tiramisu of memory.  I think I’d better finish with that image before I get carried away: into the earth, as we all will be one day.   


Jan Woolf






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