‘Travelling through’ implies motion as well as detachment. It is an in-between state, removed from points of origin and destination. It may be the time we spent on the motorway, on a railway platform or in a room for the night. It may be a time when we are least open to looking around us, our mind’s eye focussed on the route ahead as we look forward to the next sights on our itinerary. Yet it may also be a time to be caught off guard, surprised by what we did not set out to see.
Going into the world has long been associated with artistic impulses, intellectual pursuits and spiritual quests. A forging of new paths. A curiosity about people and places. A need to pass on what was encountered.
This romanticised view of travel has been commodified for centuries. In the Dutch Republic of the seventeenth century, maps and landscape prints promoted nearby ‘Pleasant Places.’ Late eighteenth-century tourists were encouraged, sketchbook in hand, to go in search of the Picturesque. Nineteenth-century travel photography cast leisured Westerners as explorers of colonised lands.
Today, new borders loom on the horizon. Yet the global business of persuading people temporarily to leave home – while millions of migrants do so without much choice in the matter – is likely to withstand isolationist views and nationalist visions. Whether our planet can withstand the carbon footprint we leave behind in the process of losing or finding ourselves remains to be seen.
The works on display in this gallery invite such reflections. They range from traditional Western landscapes to travel posters. Some of them convey standardised views. Others challenge the sightseeing aesthetic by offering alternatives to the consumption of signposted scenery.
You can add points of interest to this evolving exhibition by sharing your responses to travelling in word and image, be they holiday photographs, picture postcards, landscape sketches or excerpts from travel diaries.
Exhibition curator: Harry Heuser
Curatorial team: Phil Garratt, Neil Holland (senior curator), Robert Meyrick and Karen Westendorf