Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ultima Thule - Stephen Vaughan

I've followed Stephen Vaughan's work for a while (I should write about his peat bog graves sometime).

I recently came across news of has current project which is currently being shown at the Impressions Gallery in Bradford - Ultima Thule

When I was sixteen, I spent two months that summer in Iceland - mainly in the uplands, fjells and glaciers. Not only is it a place I would love to return to again, but it also still a place that has a hold on a part of my imagination.

Ultima Thule explores not only the landscape of Iceland, but he also aims to explore the connections between geology, archaeology, history, and memory.

In Ultima Thule, the persistent human urge to explore unknown territory is considered within the context of complex geological processes, over vast periods of time, and the formation of the Earth itself. Vaughan's photographs are richly detailed, monumental representations of the landscape surface – yet they also transpose this factual evidence into broader, metaphorical themes. The potential for discovery or transformation from beneath the surface or beyond the threshold is a central theme in the making of his photographs.

Ultima Thule was initially inspired by the exploratory voyage of Pytheas, in 325 BC, from the Greek colonies of the Mediterranean to the far north-Atlantic – beyond the edges of the known world. Made in Iceland (thought to be the location of Pytheas' Thule), Vaughan's photographs traverse territory that is analogous to the contemporary frontiers of inter-planetary exploration – showing Earthly landscapes that are the nearest equivalent to the surfaces of the Moon and Mars. The photographs in Ultima Thule – of volcanic fissures, shifting tectonic plates, vast glaciers and steaming, sulphurous pools – connect Pytheas' ancient voyage of discovery to contemporary inter-planetary exploration...

Islands are places apart where Europe is absent.
Are they? The world still is, the present, the lie,
And the narrow bridge over a torrent
Or the small farm under a crag
Are natural settings for the jealousies of a province.

W.H. Auden - "Journey to Iceland"

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