Jacky's review of 'Blackout' Dan Holdsworth at Baltic, Gateshead

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Dan Holdsworth ‘Blackout’

Baltic 12th November 2010 – 20 February 2011

Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead, NE8 3BA, UK Tel: +44 (0)191 478 1810 http://www.balticmill.com/whatsOn/present/index.php

For the exhibition Blackout British photographer Dan Holdsworth has reproduced large scale prints for exhibition at Baltic in Gateshead, the original series (Black Mountain) was taken in Iceland 2001.

Since the late 90s, Dan Holdsworth has worked on a number of projects mainly dealing with landscape, earlier work concentrates on urban peripheries, mostly at night, seemingly empty out of town industrial estates, shopping centres and motorways. Over the last decade, his subjects have shifted toward the ‘natural landscape’ and an interest in the sublime, producing work in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. He works with large format and colour negative, using long exposures and overexposure to achieve movement in natural elements and to create ‘daylight’ from nighttime shots. His work has been widely exhibited, both nationally and internationally and is held in a number of public collections, he is represented by Patricia Low Contemporary, Switzerland.

The exhibition at Baltic shows 7 images from the Blackout series, they are large scale C-type prints (226cm x177cm) displayed in a small white room with a single entrance and exit. There is a text board placed on the outside wall of the space, the images are all titled Blackout and numbered. The size of the space both adds and detracts from the viewing experience, a small number of people within the space can make viewing difficult, particularly if you want to stand back from the work, on the other hand, the space provides an enclosure which adds to the impression of standing within a mountainous landscape. The images themselves are ambiguous, the subject initially seems to be snow covered mountains with pitch black skies, some of them have very sharply defined horizons, while in others the heavy black sky appears to engulf the top of the mountain range. They are almost monochromatic, there are small area’s in a number of prints where you can see subtle evidence of colour, mostly blues in the mid and lower tones and there is one image which appears to show a small body of azure water nestled in the lower part of mountain. Scale adds to the ambiguity of these images and impacts on the viewer, its difficult to judge how vast or contained the vistas are, the exhibition includes one detail image, without sky or horizon and it’s printed to the scale and size of the wide shots. For me there was one particular image which stood out, it appears almost like an x-ray, the definition of the mountain is delicate and almost gossamer like, showing the strata and structure of the rock and its layers.


In fact, all images are actually printed in negative form, the original images are of Icelantic glaciers blackened from volcanic ash, frozen into the ice, shot in low flat light with bleached skies and the reversal produces the black sky and white peaks.

Black Mountains 01, 2001 C-type print 244 x 182 cm.jpg


While many of the images are dramatic, ambiguous and quite beautiful, I personally prefer the original positve images titled Black Mountain, which I feel are more subtle and extraordinary.


Textboard: 'Blackout'


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