Review: Among the Trees – Hayward Gallery

With climate change looming above our heads every minute of everyday, sometimes it’s important to take a step back and remind ourselves of the organisms which give us the ‘breath of life’.

Among the Trees at the Hayward Gallery blew me away with how immersive and engaging it could be without feeling overwhelmingly repetitive. Although some pieces could have been better grouped, due to their recurring themes and moral messages, it was evidently clear that, for some, there was a great, even sentimental, love for the trees of the world.

Many artists and photographers naturally dived into the friction between nature and civilisation, exploring pollution in the environment, exploitation of natural resources, and in one especially powerful work by Roxy Paine the destructive occurrence of forest fires.

Some sought to find humour in their images, such as Robert Smithson’s upside-down trees, while others showcased their proficiency in their respective media, from Jean-Luc Mylayne’s photomontages to Kazuo Kadonaga’s slicing of a tree into extraordinarily thin sheets.

But some of the best works were those that displayed the awe-inspiring monumentality and mystery of these inhabitants of old, and our coexistence with them. Works by Tacita Dean, Eva Jospin, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Rodney Graham, Mariele Neudecker, Myoung Ho Lee, and Jennifer Steinkamp all fit into this category.

More relevant than ever before, this exhibition is a subtle but moving celebration of the natural world in all its glory.

Among the Trees runs until 31 October 2020 at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk

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