16 January – 21 February 1998
White Cube Duke Street
The Italian-based photographer Walter Niedermayr is concerned with extending the potential of a single image—in his work, a picture is allowed to unfold as a series of fragments. The alpine landscapes shown at White Cube were presented as diptychs or triptychs, individually framed, but hung butted-up against each other, showing a single, panoramic view.
This visual device is, to a certain extent, a means of coming to terms with the expansive nature of the scenes Niedermayr chooses to photograph; the artist has been known to climb all day to achieve the altitudes required to take the aerial shots he hopes reveal ‘the world of these mountains from the point of view of the mountains themselves.’ The presence of human beings sets up a tension between these timeless landscapes and the suggestion of contemporary leisure pursuits—they appear as tiny, scattered figures, their clothes providing accents of bright colour against vast stretches of white snow.
Niedermayr’s subject recalls a tradition of German Romantic painting and the work of Caspar David Friedrich, yet his interest is in human activity rather than solitary contemplation; in this respect, the work comes closer to the bustling snow scenes painted by Jan Brueghel. Niedermayr surveys the interaction between man and nature with a cool, objective eye, presenting an updated take on a sublime landscape that now features ski-lift cables, snow scored by the paths of skiers and brightly coloured clothing—these lines graphically criss-cross the surface of the photographs. Despite their seemingly impersonal perspective, there is an underlying implication in the images that man’s use of the natural environment has in recent years become more intrusive. By varying the angle or viewpoint of his photographs to create discontinuities between images of the same scene, Niedermayr communicates what he sees as the physical rupturing of an awe-inspiring terrain.