In an unprecedented collaboration, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Academy of Arts are presenting three simultaneous solo exhibitions with Tacita Dean acting as both artist and curator. The exhibitions will explore genres traditionally associated with painting – landscape at the Royal Academy of Arts, portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery and still life at the National Gallery. Quarantania will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts.
The desert landscape depicted in Quarantania shows The Mount of Temptation, the historic site where, according to the Bible, Jesus was tempted by the devil after forty days of fasting. The Mount of Temptation is also known as Mount Quarantania and Jebel Quarantul. Both names arise from a mispronunciation of the Latin word Quarentena, meaning forty, the number of days in Christ’s fast.
In spite of its historic context, Dean’s work is firmly rooted in the present. She adds a fictional layer to the composition through fragments of handwritten text, like diary entries or stage directions. Some of the words are overwritten or blurred as if they had been wiped out, resisting any attempt to decipher them. They blend with the underlying photography and create a link not only between the layers of the print, but also between the biblical past and present day political realities.