Common Guild showcases a selection of works by English artist Tacita Dean (4 stars)

Common Guild showcases a selection of works by English artist Tacita Dean

YBA-associated artist's recent work is a splice of German and British cultures

In a superbly attractive autumnal exhibition, The Common Guild is showcasing a selection of works by English artist Tacita Dean. Though associated with the generation of YBAs, and once nominated for the Turner Prize, Dean’s practice is of a different class to popularised Hirsts and Emins. Currently residing in Berlin, Dean’s recent work is a splice of German and British cultures.

A series of fragile works take as their ‘found’ canvas six 19th century damaged albumen silver prints of bare trees taken by the German photographer, August Kotzsch. Dean has laboriously filled the backgrounds of these photographs with white gouache, incarcerating the deciduous branches forever leafless, highlighting its barren, fruitless beauty.

Although this juxtaposition of painting and photography establishes instant aesthetic sense, ‘Prisoner Pair’, a 16mm film with no sound is projected through – almost imprisoned in – a single sheet of glass, like a painting suspended in mid air. This exquisite still life is a study of two captive pears preserved in two bottles of alcohol, its matt surface dappling with shadows and vivid painterly textures – as if to quietly render Painting as a genre finally completely obsolete by hanging on to the dying medium of film as the medium makes way for the digital future. Placed side by side to capture their demise in dialogue, the film observes their finest detail and activity as sunlight beams through the glass and then slowly fades over the magnified crustal surface, producing an abstract landscape not unlike that of the remaining work upstairs.

There you will find a single large photograph of a floating stone, entitled Hünengrab II (floating), meaning Megalithic grave, bearing allegorical weight of 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Hünengrab im Herbst’ (Dolmen in the Fall). Similar to the Kotzsch trees, Dean has painted out the background up to the edge of the stone’s contours, allowing this weighty object, with its surface like a magnified planet, to float effortlessly in pitch-black infinity.

This humble, yet powerfully poetic and cockle-warming exhibition is the perfect antidote to the chilly winter months ahead.

The Common Guild, Glasgow, until Sat 5 Feb

Tacita Dean

  • 4 stars

The artist's first solo exhibition in over a decade explores displaced objects and processes of transformation, growth and demise through her 16mm film installations and other mixed media works.

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