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Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art presents Dan Holdsworth's digital sculptures
Dan Holdsworth, Spatial Objects, 2018. Installation view. Photo: Steven Aitchison.

SUNDERLAND.- Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art announces Spatial Objects, the second exhibition at the venue by artist-photographer Dan Holdsworth following Continuous Topography (until 6 January 2019), which showcases two sharply contrasting visions of epic landscapes in the digital age.

Blown up to larger than human scale and rendered in the pure colours of the RGB digital palette, Spatial Objects presents sixteen individual sculptural works of a single pixel marking a GPS co-ordinate, or ‘a fragment of a fragment’ of an image. In the half-lit gallery space they appear as chillingly beautiful alien sentinels who have somehow stepped out of the digital realm into the ‘real’ world.

Taken in the dramatic volcanic landscape of America’s deepest lake, at Crater Lake in the western US, the images make the virtual space that single pixels occupy seem startlingly real. The title Spatial Objects derives from a programming term to designate objects that actually exist, making the works paradoxical, both natural and abstract.

Continuous Topography is the premiere of Holdsworth’s first moving-image work. Projected at large scale on two monumental facing walls, the work presents forward and reverse sequences of astonishingly detailed, large-scale digital animations that meld maps and composite photographs of a glacial Alpine landscape into an immersive virtual sublime. The three-dimensional images of places characterised by extraordinary natural beauty are formed from millions of points marked in space, each a millimetre-perfect registration of the precise contours of a rapidly changing topography, that Holdsworth terms “future archaeology”. Accompanying this work is a new two-channel photographic work accompanying Continuous Topography, which presents a birdseye view of the retreating Hoffelsjökull glacier in south-east Iceland.

Since 1996, Holdsworth has explored the ‘extreme’ territories that characterise the changing human relationship to the natural world in the Anthropocene. Over the last six years, he has worked alongside – and unusually for an artist - sponsored academic geologists to map the exact contours of Alpine glaciers and rock formations using drones, lasers, photography and the sophisticated software normally used by climate scientists and the military. The consecutive solo exhibitions Continuous Topography and Spatial Objects acknowledge the depth and breadth of Holdsworth’s innovative practice and his singular vision of landscape in a digital age.

Since the 1990s, Dan 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’, under the conditions of man-made light. 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, 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 book, Spatial Objects, is also released in the UK later in 2018.

Holdsworth began his career aged 25, as one of the youngest artists ever to be acquired for Tate’s permanent collection, and has subsequently had works acquired by many museums and galleries including the Pompidou Centre, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, Vienna; and V&A and Arts Council Collection, London.

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