Ruin Lust


The ‘Ruin Lust’ exhibition on at Tate Britain reveals a collection of work that calls into mind the past, the historic and the lost.  The exhibition begins its focus on nineteenth century artists that explore ruined landscapes and the picturesque, such as Turner’s ‘Tintern Abbey: The Crossing and Chancel, Looking towards the East Window, 1794’.  This reminiscence of the past has been prevalent in art, with Renaissance artists looking to Classical art and the Antique for inspiration.  Roman ruins and sculpture were represented in a literal way with sculpted figures being made limbless to reflect the antique.

John Martin’s ‘The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, 1822’ looks to mythology for inspiration; the painting is an immense work.  With swirling areas of paint that engulf the scene, figures swoon with exhaustion in the foreground, and miniscule details of tiny figures appear in the ships at the shore of a churning sea.  The image is defined in shades of crimson, calling to mind a sea of blood, it is apocalyptic, and being at the beginning of the exhibition is the precursor to the ensuing ruin to come…

Tacita Dean’s work: ‘Kodak, 2006’ is mesmerising in its construction, a video piece that displays an array of processes in a factory.  The viewer is compelled to watch mundane activities that have an element of beauty to them, watching intently the allure of the everyday, and the dying manufacture of Kodak film.  The work represents the soon to be ruin of the physical and manual for the technical and digital.

The Romanticism of ruin to the bereavement of things to be lost are categorised within the Tate’s exhibition.  With some beautiful work on display, some of which shows the lust for ruins, others that reveal ruin created through lust for the new.


J.M.W. Turner, 'Tintern Abbey: The Crossing and Chancel, Looking towards the East Window', 1974 (Image courtesy of Tate)

John Martin, 'The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum', 1822 (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Tacita Dean, 'Kodak', 2006 (Image Courtesy of Tate)


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