Dan Holdsworth: Mapping the Limits of Space

Graves Gallery
- , 2018

Tickets: Free

Explorations into the relationship between landscape photography, science and technology. Our review...

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Dan Holdsworth: Mapping the Limits of Space Archived

Throughout history, landscapes have captured the artistic imagination. From painting to photography, the glorious peaks and troughs of the natural world have inspired generations of creatives and have hung in gold frames in galleries across the globe. Dan Holdsworth is another individual in a long line of landscape-obsessed artists. However, if you were going to Dan Holdsworth: Mapping the Limits of Space at Graves Gallery to see rows of picturesque scenes that vaguely resemble somewhere you went on holiday, you’d be barking up the wrong tree.

Holdsworth is undoubtedly fixated on the stunning scenes that frame our planet, but he uses digital mapping data and varied photographic processes to capture them in an entirely new way. His latest approach is highlighted in Continuous Topography (2016), which opens the exhibition in three large format photographs. Holdsworth constructs these works with software normally used by academic and military institutions, exposing crevices unseen by the human eye. Almost painterly in its detail, Continuous Topography is a breathtaking recreation of the surface of earth, capturing the whole history of a place rather than a singular moment.

Standing in opposition to Continuous Topography on the other side of the gallery is Blackout (2010), a three-part series studying a volcanically black glacier in Southern Iceland. By reversing the image, the dark glacier appears fluorescent white whereas the light sky becomes as black as night. The switch creates an other-worldly image where the curves and details of the glacier are all the more pronounced. Curiously, the inspiration for this work came from an entirely different landscape: that of the New York City blackout in 1965. In both cases, rather than light radiating from the sky it is found emanating from the earth.

Holdworth’s investigations into photographic process extend into form too – the most experimental of which is Spatial Objects (2015). In complete contrast to the monochrome photographs in the first gallery, Spatial Objects features bold, chunky, primary-coloured sculptures inspired by minimalist sculptural practices of the 1960s and 1970s. Surprisingly the works still begin with the landscape, taking geological mapping data of the American west as their starting point. The final pieces are brash, oblong shapes with layers of shade. Rather than recreating the appearance of the American west, Spatial Objects ask questions like: why do images have to be printed on paper? Why don’t we reinterpret landscapes on bright coloured shapes?

Questions of this sort resound throughout Mapping the Limits of Space. Holdsworth’s captivating visuals force the viewer to reassess assumptions they’d made about landscape photography. The artist even asks us to reconsider the role of the photographer in Transmission Mount St Helens (2012), where the images aren’t captured by Holdsworth but are scans of the earth taken from US Geological Survey data. It seems that Holdsworth is asking a lot of these questions himself, and Mapping the Limits of Space offers a momentary insight into the working process of a practitioner that blends the boundaries of art, science and technology to produce art that is both singular and mesmerising.

Image: Dan Holdsworth, Blackout 06, 2010, C-type print, © Dan Holdsworth.

Written by Hannah Clugston; January 17, 2018