Patricia Low Contemporary is pleased to present Blackout, a solo exhibition by Dan Holdsworth.
Photography is made in darkness, and darkness holds its secrets. In 1860, Mr W. Campbell, alone in his New Jersey studio, took a picture of an empty chair; when it was developed, neither he nor anyone else could explain the presence of a little boy that was clearly sat in it. In the same place, one hundred years later, the Great Northeast Blackout eclipsed an entire population; millions thought it was nuclear Armageddon. In an abyss of total infuscation the lost moments of collective amnesia, of time’s forgotten shadows, are perhaps recounted in x-ray negative: the world simulated as its own silenced and stilled skeleton, revealing a pervasive primordial presence.
Phenomenology of technology, place, and consciousness are mere starting points for Holdworth’s photographs; neither documentations nor fictions, his landscapes evoke haunting evidence, a kind of empirical knowledge that extends beyond immediate cognition. For Holdsworth, photography, with its technical precision and inherent wonder, its malleable power of authority, is treated as a challenge to limitation’s excess. Taking up to a year to produce, edited through both analogue and digital processes, Holdsworth’s photographs tease out the invisible ‘truths’ imperceptible to the naked eye. His fantastical images aren’t elaborate deceptions, but rather astounding articulations of what is actually caught on film.
In Blackout, Holdsworth presents three new works, enormously scaled prints of mountains dazzling with crystalline allure, refracting not in light, but rather its total absence. Taken in Iceland, a volcanic otherworld where day is night and ice is sooty pitch, Holdsworth’s negative images are literal double inversions; their black and white clarity negates all natural logic. Their effect is sheer magic, the sublime made modular and spectacularly tangible: glaciers transform with sculpted solidity, as if they could fit in the palm of a hand, escarpments buckle with the scratchy translucency of glass, containing prisms of spectral hues, and expanses of atrementaceous sky bear down, suffocating as all consuming voids.
The actualisation of Holdsworth’s images is made no less delusive; these photographs are more suggestive of hand-crafted media. The sharp virgin peaks of Untitled 07 and 13 convey a gem-cutters draughtsmanship, their strange aesthetic, like diagrammatical etching, merges ideas of new world exploration and futurism; while Untitled 09 delves into the realm of almost pure abstraction, as illusively textured and gestural as painting, conceiving terrain as a palpable geo-psyche surface, a synaesthetic confusion between sight and touch. Accompanied by three smaller pieces, land- and industrial-scapes exude their own mystifying power: as liminal spaces between reality and its dissolve. Each one a stolen moment, captured in the blinding blink of a shutter, a split second camera induced blackout. Darkness holds its secrets, as Holdsworth’s photographs testify: beautiful, mesmerising, larger than life and absolutely inexplicable.
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