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Svalbard: Photographs by Ian van Coller
May 21 @ 5:00 pm - June 25 @ 4:00 pm PDTFree
Gallery Exhibition Dates: May 21 – June 25, 2022
Ian van Coller made these photographs of Svalbard while on the Arctic Circle Artist’s Residency in 2019. In recent years, van Coller has dedicated his work to the subject of deep time and climate change, best represented through glacier-loss. His travels frequently find him in the Antarctic and Arctic (though he has also documented “tropical glaciers” in Peru and Tanzania). Polar-environments are experiencing planetary warming two to three times faster then the rest of the planet.
Svalbard is a dramatic subject not only for its rarity, but also for its legacy. Situated midway between continental Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard is a gateway to the Arctic. The archipelago has an Arctic climate, but with milder temperatures than other areas of the same latitude. Though remote, Svalbard is not barren. It is home to a unique ecosystem. Flora take advantage of the midnight sun to compensate for polar night. It is a breeding ground for many seabirds and home to polar bears, reindeer, arctic fox, whale, and walrus. Such resources became targets, and Svalbard has a long history of human intervention. Its proximity to Europe made it easy hunting and extraction grounds for a host of European countries. The islands were used as a base by whalers, who came in search of blubber; hunters who came for furs; and miners who came for coal.
Ian van Coller’s work depicts the traces and tragedies of these histories alongside serene and dramatic landscapes that embrace every aspect of the sublime. These photographs are beautiful, and even a bit terrifying. A symphony of color dances on snowcapped peaks that plunge into smooth yet rippled waters. The environment itself seems like a living chronicle. Remains of human activity are everywhere- littering and interrupting place as much as disappearing, crumbling-back into a time before the time before. We feel the trespasses of humans and the slow degradation of time in the remains of our abandoned’ industries. This sense is made more palpable considering the complication that what remains may not be around much longer. Tension rises in our knowing there is a permanence and impermanence to place. We play a role in this drama. Our trespass is ongoing.