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Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) announces commission by major contemporary artist Alex Hartley

Known for sculptural photographic compositions, film-making, climbing, and site-specific works, Hartley’s newly commissioned piece will engage with the communities and landscapes of Dartmoor.

Alex Hartley has been commissioned to create a new artwork inspired by the Exeter City Council museum’s collections of Dartmoor material. Hartley, who is based in East Devon and regularly climbs on Dartmoor, addresses complicated attitudes toward the built and natural environments through his work, and shows new ways of physically experiencing and thinking about our surroundings. Alex is internationally renowned and critically acclaimed – his recent exhibition, Closer Than Before, showed at Victoria Miro gallery in Venice during the Biennale Architettura 2023.

Hartley has previously explored the climate emergency through works such as Nowhereisland (2015); following the discovery of a new island uncovered by a retreating glacier, Hartley and an expedition team from art/science organisation Cape Farewell took the island into international waters, declaring it the world’s newest nation and inviting members of the public to become citizens. It was then towed to the Dorset coast. Nowhereisland was one of the major ‘Artists Taking the Lead’ commissions for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The new work will feature in RAMM’s new Dartmoor exhibition next year which will explore the ways in which photographic artists, in particular, have been drawn to Dartmoor, where they have explored radical or alternative approaches to living and making art.

Alex Hartley, The Present Order, 2016

I have an ongoing relationship with Dartmoor National Park through regular visits to climb, walk and camp. Recently I’ve been experimenting in the studio combining nature photography with sculptural elements incorporating solar panels and photographic lighting rigs – attempting to directly activate and energise images of supernature and sacred prehistoric sites.

The commission for RAMM will allow me to focus on refining and completing these works, directly connecting the magic of photography with the magic of Dartmoor.’ – Alex Hartley

The artist commission was selected by a panel consisting of Lara Goodband, contemporary art curator and programmer at RAMM; Kate Best, independent curator and consultant on the forthcoming exhibition; and Jem Southam, photographer.

It was difficult to choose from so many excellent artists and so many fascinating approaches to making new photographic art about Dartmoor but Alex’s ambition and vision for this new commission was particularly resonated with the selection panel. His deep knowledge of the landscape combined with an extraordinary attention to creating beautiful and thoughtful art will ensure an extraordinary new artwork for the new exhibition.’ – Lara Goodband, RAMM’s contemporary art curator.

‘The selection panel had a challenging task choosing from an excellent field of submissions. We are excited that they have commissioned Alex Hartley; he has a strong relationship with Dartmoor and experience engaging with landscapes and both built and natural environments.’ – Cllr Laura Wright, Exeter City Council lead for Arts & Culture.