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With a landmark triple-museum billing spanning three of London’s most prestigious galleries, Tacita Dean has taken the art world by storm. As LANDSCAPE opens at the Royal Academy this weekend, we bring you our guide to this triptych of must see exhibitions.

Tacita Dean came to prominence in the mid-late 90s as a revered member of the Young British Artists (YBAs), and was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 1998. This year, she’s making art history, by presenting a collection of new work in a remarkable run of solo shows across London, marking an unprecedented collaboration between the National Gallery, the Royal Academy and the National Portrait Gallery.

Having tailored each exhibition to fit with her interpretation of the special character of each of these institutions, Dean showcases her unparalleled capacity to master, swap, and interrogate diverse genres, ranging from LANDSCAPE (Royal Academy), and PORTRAIT (National Portrait Gallery), to STILL LIFE (National Gallery).

Born in Canterbury in 1965, Dean studied at Falmouth University and the Slade School of Art, where she developed a versatile skill set, including drawing, photography and sound. Over her career, Dean has become well known for her stunning works in 16mm film, which often explore ‘Britishness’ through landscapes, seascapes and portraits of literary or artistic figures. Many of her works return to the theme of the sea; throughout the late 90s she documented the life of Donald Crowhurst, a sailor whose attempt to win a race to circumnavigate the globe resulted in deception, existential dread and, eventually, death. Dean has said that “all the things I am attracted to are just about to disappear”, and she often captures portraits of important artists or figures shortly before their death. Recent works have explored her literary influences: the novelists J.G. Ballard and W.G. Sebald, and the poet Michael Hamburger, at the end of their lives, and her fascination with 16mm film (itself a dying medium) was explored in Kodak (2006).

In order to create this exhibition, the artist has travelled the world over — from the eerie and mythic scapes of Bodmin Moor in England, to the beautifully twisted open rangelands of Wyoming in the American West, where Dean went especially to film a rare solar eclipse. The artist explores “landscape” in its widest sense — bringing together personal collections of natural found objects (including round stones and four leaved clovers that signify her artistic relationship with luck and chance), a newly completed chalk on blackboard drawing of a mountain mid-avalanche, and a series of cloudscapes drawn in chalk on (ex-Victorian school board) slate, that meditate on Britain’s new place in the world and its relationship with Europe.

The exhibition will leave you dazed by Dean’s mastery of the diverse mediums, as she moves effortlessly from photochemical film, to chalk drawing and traditional painting. However, the exhibition highlight is surely her major new experimental 35mm film titled Antigone (after her sister). Shown via two synchronized cinemascope projections, this semi-narrative film brings together a plethora of landscapes, climates, geological formations and architectural structures to create a spectacular retelling of the story of Oedipus and his sister-daughter Antigone. The result is a captivating exploration of place, identity and the very processes of artistic creation.

Using a masking technique that she herself invented, Dean splits each strip of film in two, using this method to deftly juxtapose libraries with bridges, arctic rocks with solar eclipses, people watching sunsets with weather beaten trees. This enchanting film lasts exactly one hour and screenings start promptly on the hour, every hour. PORTRAIT at the National Portrait Gallery

PORTRAIT reveals Dean’s longstanding interest in and understanding of the genre of portraiture — it is also the first exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery’s history to be devoted to the medium of film. Among the most notable works on display are Dean’s highly personal and intimate 16mm films of influential artistic figures. These range from her major six-screen installation, Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS…(six performances, six films) (2008), to her film of Claes Oldenburg in Manhattan Mouse Museum (2011), and her film diptych of Julie Mehretu, GDGDA (2011), all of which are previously unseen in the UK.

The exhibition also features beautiful 16mm film portraits of David Hockney in Portraits (2016), Cy Twombly in Edwin Parker (2011), Mario Merz (2002), and Michael Hamburger (2007), whom some may recognise as the poet that WG Sebald visits in his novel The Rings Of Saturn.

As well as a selection of photographic works, Dean has made two new film works for the exhibition, Providence (2017), a portrait of David Warner with hummingbirds, and the landmark piece, His Picture in Little (2017). The latter is a film in miniature, also featuring Warner, alongside Stephen Dillane and Ben Whishaw — three actors connected by the fact that they have all portrayed Shakespeare’s Hamlet on the London stage. The title of this work comes from a line spoken in Hamlet, and the film has been made specifically for presentation within the Gallery’s permanent Collection. STILL LIFE at the National Gallery

In the smallest of the three exhibitions, Dean displays her prowess as a curator, as well as an artist. Exhibiting some of her own works alongside works from the Gallery’s permanent collection and other sources, Dean achieves a subtle meditation on the genre of still life, playfully examining the twin notions of life and stillness.

Though many of the works present images of dead things, the exhibition itself is full of life — riffing off the inevitable stillness of painting, Dean manages to bring inanimate objects, rocks and stones, even stuffed birds, into pulsing, stelliferous motion. The artist seems to succeed in compressing time into a single moment.

Dean also embraces the passing of time, using bold temporal juxtapositions to leap from through the ages. For example, Francisco de Zurbarán’s 17th century painting, A Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate (c. 1630), is shown alongside Wolfgang Tillmans’ contemporary photograph, Beerenstilleben (2007), which shows a cup on a windowsill. The similarity in composition and subject matter, makes the leap through time all the more surprising and arresting.

Once again the highlight of the exhibition are Dean’s 16mm films, notably Prisoner Pair (2008) and a new diptych called Ideas for Sculpture in a Setting. The latter shows shots of clouds passing through the sky, framed through the holes found within rock formations, recalling Georgia O’Keeffe’s mid 1940s Pelvis series of paintings. As with much of Dean’s work in 16mm, these feel like films you could watch forever.