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Journeys with 'The Waste Land' at Turner Contemporary

David Cotton

On 3 February Turner Contemporary opens Journeys with 'The Waste Land', a major exhibition exploring the significance of T.S. Eliot’s 1922 poem through the visual arts.

In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on 'The Waste Land' sitting in the Nayland Rock shelter on Margate Sands. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work, reflecting on the fractured world in the aftermath of the First World War as well as Eliot's own personal crisis.

Journeys with 'The Waste Land' explores how contemporary and historical art can enable us to reflect on the poem's shifting flow of diverse voices, references, characters and places. The exhibition presents almost a hundred objects by over sixty different artists, including work by Tacita Dean, Elisabeth Frink, Henrik Håkansson, Helen Marten and Henry Moore.

The exhibition is the culmination of a three year project designed to develop a pioneering approach to curating. Local residents, coming together as the Waste land Research Group, have developed the entire exhibition. Journeys with 'The Waste Land' is consequently the result of many months the group have spent discussing personal connections between art, poetry and life.

The Henry Moore Foundation awarded £6,000 towards commissioning a new work by Swedish artist Henrik Håkansson. Building on his previous works which have referenced 'The Waste Land', Håkansson's 'A Tree Divided' will suspend two halves of a single, spliced tree, including roots and branches within the gallery.

Håkansson's work has been developed in partnership with the Kent Downs AoNB and the Woodland Trust, who helped to source an ash tree suffering from the fungal infection Hymenoskyphus Fraxineus, also known as ash dieback.

Journeys with 'The Waste Land' has grown out of research undertaken by Professor Mike Tooby during a Senior Research Fellowship at the Henry Moore Institute in 2014. At that time Tooby began considering the idea of participative research alongside his own research into the relationship of 'The Waste Land' to historic and contemporary sculpture.

Journeys with 'The Waste Land' is open at Turner Contemporary in Margate, Kent, 3 February - 7 May 2018. Entrance is free. For more information see www.turnercontemporary.org.

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