In May, Tate Britain will complete their re-hang so that you can follow the journey of British Art chronologically from 1540 to present day. By way of a taster they’ve put on a display of how artists have viewed the world around them over the last 300 years.
Rather than the usual tight curation we’ve come to expect from the Tate, this exhibition feels more like something you’d come across in a smaller commercial gallery. It’s purposefully lacking in labels that try to explain the context of the works and all of the artists are loosely associated; but does it work?
Though there are classical paintings on display, these can never compete with the collections at the Royal Academy and National Gallery. They are mainly here for context and it’s the contemporary works that are the most impressive. They range from Julian Opie’s minimalist motorway disappearing into the distance to Gillian Carnegie’s foreboding forest composed entirely of thick black paint. Other notable mentions include a Belfast roundabout by Paul Graham where all appears normal until you spot soldiers running to a place out of shot and the mood then shifts.
Some of the works explore the theme of time moving on, such as Dan Holdsworth’s shopping complex where lights blaze brightly but there isn’t a car or person in sight. While Wolfgang Tillmans’ tribute to Concorde is a wall of photographs taken from the ground, highlighting that progress is not the same as advancement.
The lack of a central narrative to this show can make it difficult to navigate but the strength of the individual contemporary works makes it an exhibition worth seeing.
Looking at the view is on display at Tate Britain until 2 June. Admission is free.