Darren Almond, born in 1971 is an artist based in England. In his exhibition, at the White Cube Gallery, he shares a fascination with the geography and ice formation of the Northern hemisphere and in particular, the region surrounding the Siberian city of Norilsk.
His exhibition consists of two filmic works entitled “Anthropocene: The Prelude (2010)”, and a series of photographs depicting the same portion of land. In his filmic works, the first piece contains images of ice floes moving and colliding one against the other. The two vertically rectangular screens are placed with a space between them, through which the viewer attains an insight of the third screen: a road rendered in high contrast black and white film.
In viewing the film of the moving ice, which is accompanied by low-pitched sounds of what seems to be creaking and crashing ice overlaid with a continuous drone, one notices, firstly, the way he uses the images on the two screens: in some sections of the film, the images on the screens form a palindrome and in doing so illustrate the more abstract patterns of light and shade within the composition. At these moments, the viewer is aware of the movement of the camera against the movement of water and ice and also the opposing movement between the two screens themselves. This overall tension in movement seems to produce a rhythmic composition that stand in relation to the patterns generated from tension caused through the movement of the shifting ice floes. These complex patterns emerging out of the sequence of images are further enhanced by the mid-air position of the camera, which flattens out the surface, making it more abstract, less symbolic. Almond’s control of the image also contributes towards its richness, for the use of colour in certain sections of the film, particularly the presence of the ochre’s and greens, reveal details in the landscape previously hidden.
Maybe it is Almond’s intention to produce a film depicting a slice of Arctic landscape as anonymous, in accordance with the 19th century view of that region as being something unknown and as such unallocated: the white spaces represented in maps, which were known as “sleeping beauties” by cartographers of that age. After the entire region above the Arctic Circle was up until recently an uncharted territory which served to fuel the collective imagination.
But it is not only the barren landscape that forms the subject-matter for Almond, his work also includes a fascination with the changing weather conditions, which is most evident in the work The Principle of Moments (2010). This work which spans the entire wall space of the ground floor gallery consists of small gem-like photographs depicting the same scene: an outcrop of land surrounded by sea conveys different quantities of information in virtue of the changing weather conditions: sometime the landscape is hidden by a blanket of fog, or the glare from the sun; at other times, its clarity is hidden by the diminished light, and yet other times its detail is marked through the play of light and shadow. This painstaking documentation has been brought about by photographing the scene every minute over a period of a week.
What seems integral to Almond’s exhibition is the sense of change, whether it is the movement of the filmic process or the movement of the camera position or the movement conveyed in virtue of a sequence of still images or, in the case of the third screen of the work “Anthropocene: The Prelude”, the movement of the snow by the raging wind in an otherwise isolated road scene.