PAUL Nash’s Winter Sea, first created in 1925 and later re-worked in 1937, is among York Art Gallery's most popular works.

Now it has its place at the heart of Paul Nash and the Uncanny Landscape, a new exhibition curated by fellow artist John Stezaker that turns the spotlight on Nash's ground-breaking inter-war landscapes and the work of his contemporaries that together transformed British landscape painting.

Stanley Spencer, John Nash, Edward Burra, William Townsend, Henry Lamb, Sydney Carline, Tristram Hillier and Cecil Collins all feature. On show too are a display of photographic collage artist Stezaker’s landscape works, including new pieces created in response to Nash’s approach to the uncanny landscape, and a loaned private collection of rarely seen Nash prints, drawings, photographs and ephemera: 50 works and artefacts that give a unique insight into the life of Paul Nash and his artist brother John.

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Jennifer Alexander, curator of art at York Art Gallery, with exhibits at the Paul Nash and the Uncanny Landscape exhibition curated by John Stezaker. Picture: Frank Dwyer

In a nutshell, the depiction of the "uncanny landscape" was a consequence of the violent upheaval of the pastoral and romantic landscape caused by the First World War, leading Nash and his contemporaries to portray "an estranged sense of unreality focused on the representation of the everyday world".

The term "uncanny landscape" was first coined by Sigmund Freud. "It appears everything goes back to Freud!" says Stezaker. "If I look back to the date he first wrote it, there was a feeling of spatial disorientation and alienation, and that applied to the spirit of a place. Nash described that feeling of disorientation first affecting him when he walked in Kensington Gardens with his nanny, though maybe it's close to a feeling of deja vu too."

Stezaker says Nash's work represents a watershed in British landscape painting. "His First World War paintings are probably his most famous works, but it was in the immediate aftermath of the war, when Nash was working in Dymchurch, that a much more disturbing spatial order emerged," he continues. "A dystopia created by the technological clearing of war, it represented a new variety of the uncanny in the dominated landscape of post-war Britain.

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 Portrait V, by John Stezaker, 2015

"Nash felt a kinship with his surrealist contemporaries, like Giorgio de Chirico and Rene Magritte, but his particular contribution to British art was to keep this estranged sense of unreality focused on the representation of the everyday world rather than on inner worlds or fantasy spaces."

Stezaker notes how our sense of landscape emerges from urbanism, rather than the countryside itself. "Our sense of the country comes from moving away from it; as soon as we don't occupy it, it becomes 'other'." he says.

For those who have always lived in the countryside and travel into town to work, it could be argued that the experience may differ, but Steazaker speaks as an urbanite. "I've never left the city," he says. "So the 'natural' world is always something I've visited and something I've incorporated into my bubble of Hampstead. It really does feel so healing when I'm out for two or three hours with my dog. There's something about being surrounded by trees."

Turning his thoughts back to Paul Nash, Stezaker adds: "One of the strands I've picked up in the exhibition is that a lot of the artists of Nash's time were psychologically damaged by the First World War; the work is such a bleak representation of the landscape. It's that sense of alienation from the place you're in being the complete opposite of the homely ideal, and he was constantly in search of that homely place and of connecting with the British landscape after seeing trees being uprooted, the land blasted and the world turned to mud in the war.

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Harbour And Room, 1940, by Paul Nash

"When you look at these works, I see a man deeply disturbed and destroyed by the experience of war, so he's trying to find a space of beauty, but he only finds a place of horror, a place of 'other'."

Stezaker's complementary work on show features surreal and seductive photographic collages using images from books, magazines and postcards. His landscapes draw on the geometric patterns and “uncanny” nature of Nash’s works, combining different images from vintage black-and-white photographic stills and old postcards that create new scenes designed to fascinate and unnerve. Like Nash, he offers an unfamiliar look at the familiar, while seeking a shift in attitude towards art and the landscape.

"It began with an acknowledgement of surrealism – I probably had Magritte more in mind than Paul Nash – but I don't see myself as a surrealist, just that I'm indebted to both Nash and to the Surrealists." What has ensued is John Stezaker's own distinctive uncanny landscapes.

Paul Nash and the Uncanny Landscape: An exhibition curated by John Stezaker runs at York Art Gallery until April 15 2018.

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Mask (Film Portrait Collage) CCXX, by John Stezaker, 2017