Tacita Dean. Courtesy The Observer. Photo: Antonio Olmos.
It is tempting to think of Tacita Dean as a witchy presence in the world, a diviner of hidden forces. Her chosen medium is an antique one: spooled film. Waiting is a big part of her method, and watching; there is also an alertness to chance and coincidence. She is a lifelong collector of four-leaf clovers; a sometime chaser of solar eclipses. One artistic quest saw her pursuing the three known sightings of the severed breasts of St Agatha among Italian relics. In another, she rose in a hot air balloon in the Alps before dawn to try to capture a plastic bag full of alchemists’ ether. She has long been drawn both to lighthouses and to shipwrecks. The prospectus for her three solo shows about to open in London–in an unprecedented collaboration between the National Gallery, the Royal Academy and the National Portrait Gallery–involves ancient and modern obsessions divided in the traditional way: still life, portrait and landscape. She will bring her own quiet magic to each.