26.1O.2O18 – 6.1.2O19 / 18.1.2O19 – 17.O3.2O19
Dan Holdsworth began his career as one of the youngest artists ever to be acquired for Tate’s permanent collection, aged 25, and has subsequently had works acquired by the Pompidou Centre, Museum of Modern Art Vienna, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Arts Council Collection amongst many others. Since the 1990s Holdsworth has investigated how we perceive landscapes and urban space in a digital age, when virtual space and ‘real’ space have become enmeshed. His earliest works often dwell upon the virtualisation of the ‘real’, and the conditions in which man-made light dominates the landscape. Since around 2010, Holdsworth’s work has become radically transformed whilst continuing to investigate his longstanding ideas around the nature of landscape, and the nature of photography alike. In 2018 alone Holdsworth has been the subject of three new books: Mapping the Limits of Space, a mid-career survey; Vallée de Joux, a book-length study of an Alpine Swiss valley that is the result of a seven-year collaboration with Audemars Piguet; and Acceleration Structures, based on a major new commission from Rolls-Royce. A fourth new book, Spatial Objects, is also released in the UK this year.
Artist Dan Holdsworth has dedicated the last five years to realising two major bodies of work, both of which receive their public premieres at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in 2018-19. In recognition of the depth of his achievement, the gallery has awarded Holdsworth not one but two consecutive one-person shows, each of which profiles a singular vision of landscape in a digital age. The series Spatial Objects and Continuous Topography are investigations into the limits of what constitutes a photographic ‘object’. The ‘objects’ in question, which constitute Holdsworth’s subjects, range from single pixels through to entire geological formations. These exhibitions reveal works that respectively picture some of the most majestic and monumental landscapes in the world; and humble individual pixels – seen on a human scale, as if actors in the world alongside us. These are works that could only have been created in the twenty-first century.
The projects are accompanied by both a 122pp catalogue entitled Spatial Objects, along with a major 280pp monograph surveying Holdsworth’s career published by Hatje Cantz, entitled Mapping the Limits of Space.
26 OCTOBER 2018 – 6 JANUARY 2019
Since 1996, the English artist-photographer Dan Holdsworth has explored the “extreme” territories that characterize humans’ changing relationship to the ‘natural’ world in the Anthropocene. Since 2012, the artist has worked alongside academic geologists to map the exact contours of Alpine glaciers and rock formations, by using drones, lasers, photography, and high-end software ordinarily employed by the military and climate scientists. The result is the series Continuous Topography, consisting of images created from millions of points marked in space, each a millimetre-perfect registration of the precise contours of a rapidly changing landscape. This landscape is the Argientière glacier in the Alps. Indeed between the recording of the landscape, and its presentation as artworks made to be conserved in perpetuity, the landscape has already begun to change beyond recognition.
Continuous Topography creates an image of what Holdsworth calls a “future archaeology”. What we encounter are not only three-dimensional maps of places characterised by extraordinary natural beauty, but historical records: records that document the very shape of the world that we have to lose. The works are entirely new kinds of landscape imagery, which invite us to imaginatively inhabit what initially appears to be an almost entirely abstract and immaterial, indeed spectral virtual space. Encountering these works is to see Europe’s most sublime landscapes – Alpine mountain ranges that artists have worked to picture since the Romantics – in an entirely new way. These are works that have been painstakingly constructed from data that the artist has personally gathered through weeks and months of fieldwork traversing the Alps.
The exhibition reveals the first moving-image works the artist has created, after working for 20 years with large-format analogue cameras. It focuses on a sequence of large-scale digital animations that are both maps and composite photographs. Each is projected at a monumental scale, enveloping us into a new type of space. In each, we travel on a ‘flythrough’ around and even into an Alpine landscape. Each offers a sublime superabundance of visual information: a virtual sublime, we might say, beyond the capacity of the human eye to process. These works offer a kind of hallucinatory realism that the pre-Raphaelites could only dream of, in the campaign to create an art characterised by its truth-to-nature, and a fidelity to recording the organic world in its every detail. What is startlingly new here is the degree of precision that the process of ‘photogrammetry’ offers. The astonishing quantity of detail that we are confronted with allows the artists to transform raw ‘data’ into a new type of poetry. Each pixel has the colour of the ‘real’ snow, ice or stone in the landscape, making these works a new, strange type of image.
18 January – 17 March 2019
Holdsworth’s Spatial Objects are strange, alluring portraits of the ‘objects’ that every one of us encounters every day, and which are the building blocks of vision in a digital age, but which ordinarily lie beyond our perception. The titular ‘objects’ are single “data points” – pixels marking a unique point in space, as GPS co-ordinates. The starting point for these works has been geological mapping data from the US Geological Survey of Crater Lake, a protected National Park in the western United States. When transformed into a 3D model, the data allows us to see every single point in the landscape in virtual space. Holdsworth has created photographs of individual pixels, blown-up to a scale that they become possessed of a monumental physicality. In each work, we encounter the edges of an individual plane of one pixel: each image shows only “a fragment of a fragment” of the landscape, in the artist’s own words. Here, we experience the space of nature just as it is mediated through our omnipresent screens – as pure RGB colour and light.
The title Spatial Objects derives from a term in computer programming to designate objects that exist, as Holdsworth notes, “in simultaneous symmetry within the virtual and the real”. These works are paradoxical objects, making virtual space powerfully present, and representing ‘real’, natural spaces through almost completely abstract imagery. Pixels, Holdsworth notes, are the basic building blocks of all digital communication. Here, we see the digital equivalent of William Blake‘s aspiration to ‘see the world in a grain of sand‘: we are dwarfed by microcosmic objects that usually escape our recognition as objects. Holdsworth’s Spatial Objects seem almost to present us with the world seen from a pixel’s own perspective. Where Continuous Topography orchestrates tens of millions of pixels harvested as unique data points to make an alien, ghostly world, Spatial Objects make the apparently ‘virtual’ space that individual pixels occupy feel startlingly tangible and animate. Both series offer new, twenty-first forms of sublimity in which the geological and the virtual are intertwined, and made vivid.
|25 October, 6 – 9pm
|17 January, 6 – 9pm