Picture gallery

Among the Trees

© Myoung Ho Lee.

A new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London, brings together major works by 38 international artists, and invites us to consider the essential roles that trees and forests play in our lives and psyches

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an international celebration to raise awareness of environmental conservation. First established in 1970 and celebrated by over 2000 universities and 10,000 primary and secondary schools across the US, Earth Day now comprises events in over 193 countries.

To coincide with this year’s anniversary, the Hayward Gallery, London, has brought together the work of 38 international artists in an exhibition that invites us to consider the essential roles that trees and forests play in our lives, ecosystems, and psyches.

© Shi Guowei.
Terrain Vague – Tanger (Vacant Lot – Tangier), 2001. © Yto Barrada.

Curated by Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, the exhibition is split into three sections. The first part focuses on the symbiotic nature of our planet, chiming with the recent scientific discoveries of the Wood Wide Web  — an underground network of roots and fungi that connects trees.

The work in this section dramatises the intricate architecture of branch and root systems — in Robert Longo’s giant charcoal drawings, for example, and Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s 16-metre-long video portrait of a Finnish spruce.

And Then the World Changed Colour: Breathing Yellow, 2019. © Mariele Neudecker.

The second part of the show features work that plays with the intersection between nature and culture. Here, Robert Adams examines the impact of human activity on the environment, and Zoe Leonard considers how trees can unexpectedly adapt to man-made urban structures.

© Zoe Leonard.

In the final part of the exhibition, artists explore the theme of time. As long-standing symbols of mortality, the trees depicted by artists in this section stand as memorials of time. In Ugo Rondinone’s aluminium-cast sculpture of an ancient olive tree, for example, and Rachel Sussman’s document of some of the world’s oldest trees, which includes 9,500-year-old spruce in northern Sweden.

The exhibition also includes work by Steve McQueen, Myoung Ho Lee, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, and Sally Mann, among many more. 

Among the Trees is on show at the Hayward Gallery until 17 May 2020.

Crowhurst II, 2007 © Tacita Dean.
Wind Moon, 2011. © Ugo Rondinone.

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