When you think about landscape, what comes to mind? Is it a natural green space, overflowing with wildlife? Is it urban – bustling with people, shops, and modern buildings? Do you feel like you belong there? Is it built to last, or is it slowly disappearing? 

Whatever your views are, our newest exhibition at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, Arcadia for All? Rethinking Landscape Painting Now,  is here to challenge them.

A gallery space with colourful landscape paintings hung on the walls
Arcadia for All? Rethinking Landscape Painting Now on display in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

On display until Saturday 29 July 2023, Arcadia for All? features over thirty contemporary artists, including Hurvin Anderson, Andrew Grassie, Lubaina Himid, Matthew Krishanu, Elizabeth Magill, George Shaw, and more. Each artist explores different approaches to their surroundings, encouraging you to expand your notions of landscape painting in radical and playful ways.

The exhibition borrows its title from anarchist historian Colin Ward’s book ‘Arcadia for All: Legacy of a Makeshift Landscape’, in which he explores the lost ways in which working people accessed green spaces in the 20th Century. Raising important questions about who has access to nature, the show challenges a nostalgic, idyllic and elitist idea of landscape. The added question mark in the exhibition title is an invitation for you to ponder whether Arcadia – the perfect landscape – can still be found in our surroundings today. 

A visitor wearing a large black backpack looks at a painting on the wall
A visitor admiring Louise Bristow’s painting ‘Gateway’ (2020) at Arcadia for All? Rethinking Landscape Painting Now, currently on show in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

Contemporary landscape painting brings with it vitality and variety, and is by no means limited in its themes and representations of people. As well as delving into ideas surrounding access to nature and the environmental crisis, the exhibition also tackles issues around equity, colonial legacies, and racism. Uncovering hidden histories throughout the landscape, it remembers and draws attention to what and who are not usually made visible, challenging us to look differently and carefully at the world around us.

Two visitors chat whilst admiring a green landscape painting
Visitors at the exhibition launch of Arcadia for All? Rethinking Landscape Painting Now

The exhibition is guest curated by Judith Tucker, Senior Lecturer at the School of Design, University of Leeds, and Geraint Evans, Pathway Leader MA Painting at Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London. Discussing Arcadia for All? in the accompanying exhibition catalogue, they say:

“This is not only a show of ideas, but it is about the visual and material, a real extravagance of painterly landscapes brought together, a gift for our viewers. What all the works in this exhibition do is challenge us to look differently, to look slowly, to think slowly and above all, to be careful” 

“If ‘landscape’, contested term though it may be, is one way through which we might understand our place in the world, it also offers a means to comprehend our impact on the world”

A gallery space with colourful landscape paintings hung on the walls
Arcadia for All? Rethinking Landscape Painting Now on display in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

As concerns mount in relation to climate change and environmental degradation, Arcadia for All? asks how landscape painting might respond. It’s a space for you to come and contemplate landscape, through your own eyes and the perspectives of others, to dream about possible futures and our identities within them. 

‘Arcadia for All? Rethinking Landscape Painting Now’ is on display in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery until Saturday 29 July 2023. Full information about how to visit the exhibition can be found on the Leeds University Library Galleries website. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue which you can view online for free here, or purchase a physical copy via the Galleries’ Online Shop.

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