Monday 12th June – Friday 8th September 2023
The Matterhorn, Pennine Alps II, 15:45, 4th November 2021, 2021.
Following the exhibition of Nick Knight’s Roses from my Garden in 2019, Albion Barn presents ten large-format mountain images taken in 2021-2022 in the Alps. Visually, these images have an impressionistic attitude, more closely aligned to Monet’s paintings of the Falaise of Étretat, 1885. Mountain aficionados will recognise these peaks, amongst them The Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. The images again push the boundaries of photography towards painting, so different from Carleton Watkins’ images made at almost the same time as Monet in Yellowstone Park, particularly those of El Capitan.
In choosing these iconic peaks, Knight invited familiarity, but the awesome majesty of these Alpine peaks belies a very real danger, and while these images are undoubtedly beautiful, the savage brutality of the Alps should not be forgotten. Alpine photography has rarely been more impressive than in the awesome black and white imagery of Balthazar Burkhard, the Swiss photographer based around Bern who died in 2010. The traditions of image making on the Matterhorn go back as far as the celebrated landscape painter John Ruskin whose daguerreotype images made in 1850’s were hard won, when vast amounts of cumbersome equipment had to be hauled upwards often by mountain mules. His love of the mountains was also fuelled by his admiration for the watercolours of JMW Turner. Turner’s visits to the passes through the mountains are recalled in such paintings as Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, famously accompanied by elephants, 1812.
There is undoubtedly a romantic aspect to these images, recalling the nineteenth-century fascination with man’s subservience to the majesty of natural forces, the sublime and scientific rationalisation of nature and man’s attempts to conquer and explore as well as document the peaks. In some eighteenth-century painters, such as Phillip James de Loutherbourg, the melodramatic is accentuated and presented in such a way as to evoke a sense of awe in audiences, who for the most part had never visited such vast landscapes. Nick Knight does not allow familiarity to mar enjoyment of these majestic images. When most of us have flown above these peaks, he still affords the viewer the chance to admire these awe-inspiring natural wonders.
“I needed the images to show the violent and brutal energy of the colossal tectonic collisions that force and push continent against continent, fracturing, splitting and forcing huge shards of rock to rise high into the sky to stand as awesome evidence of the earths power”, says Knight, “I wanted to portray the idea, the sensation and the energy of the mountains rather than the reality”.
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