ARTIST ROOMS: Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys, Sled

Image credit: Joseph Beuys, Sled, 1969. National Gallery of Modern Art, purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and The Art Fund 2002 © DACS 2015


Timespan was pleased to host an exhibition of work by the influential German artist Joseph Beuys whose belief in the social, cultural, and political potential of art continues to resonate today.
Born in Germany in 1921, Joseph Beuys developed a diverse body of work across painting, drawing and sculpture, performance work or actions, as well as teaching, and political activities. This expanded concept of art reflected his belief that the application of creativity beyond the boundaries of traditional artistic practice could create a potent and radical transformation of society.

The exhibition at Timespan brought together a selection of Beuys’ work using fat and felt, exploring the material and symbolic properties of these pieces – of warmth, insulation, and nourishment – and their relationship to the imposing narrative and mythology of the artist’s life and work. For Beuys, the warmth and energy represented by these materials related directly to his belief in the generative potential of art.

The exhibition was accompanied by a programme of events and activities providing an opportunity to engage more deeply with Beuys’ work and legacy:

An oakling has been donated by Deveron Arts as part of the project Oaks and Amity to be planted in Helmsdale at the time of the exhibtion. This tree has grown from an acorn collected from one of Beuys’ 7000 Oaks. 7000 Oaks was both an artistic and ecological intervention that aimed to alter the perception of the city space over time by planting a large number of oaks in the city of Kassel. Each tree is accompanied by a basalt stone, and in Helmsdale the oak has been planted in Timespan’s Geology Garden.

A specially appointed Artist-in-Residence worked in Helmsdale during summer 2015, contextualising Beuys’ work for our audiences and exploring the continuing influence of Beuys on artists’ practice today.

The presentation of Beuys’ work in Scotland’s Far North was an opportunity to reflect on his interest in Celtic traditions and northern mythologies, an interest which drew him to the Scottish Highlands in the 1970s at the invitation of Richard Demarco. A one-day discursive event took Beuys journey north as a context for a wider conversation on artistic practice and the pull of the North.

The works on display were taken from ARTIST ROOMS, an inspirational collection of modern and contemporary art acquired for the nation by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland through the generosity of Anthony d’Offay with additional support from funders, including the Art Fund. The ARTIST ROOMS tour programme, now in its seventh year, is showing at 17 museums and galleries across the UK in 2015. The tour is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and through the continued support of the Art Fund and, in Scotland, support from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.


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