States of Matter, Review - Source Magazine 39 2004

STATES OF MATTER

Tracey Holland
Folly Gallery, Lancaster
26 March -7 May
images: from Electro Light series

Supported by Folly Gallery, States of Matter develops some of the themes explored in previous work with the addition of a new venture for Holland in the form of an 11 minute film entitled The Almond Tree. Based on the story of the same name by the Brothers Grimm it features motifs and techniques central to her practice. Using a collage technique layering video footage, drawing, and still imagery, the film introduces sound and movement into the exploration of the relationships between mythology and nature.
It is a slow moving and seductive work which demands time and a willingness to be drawn into its submersive and cyclical qualities. A tree emerges from white fog and we see the silhouette of a woman cut a fruit which drops blood onto the snowy ground and transforms into a heart wrapped round with thorns. The branches of the tree seemingly drip blood as electricity/ lightning traces the form of the trunk.
Animated drawings of water, overlaid by film of a forest, birds in flight across an increasingly cloudy sky, layered with footage of the sea dissolves and transforms into a sunset and an image of a branch holding an apple, and a return to the silhouette of a figure holding a circle of light. The weather is a central force in the understanding of how time unfolds in this story of wish fulfillment.
Ultimately an optimistic work which seeks to find a visual language to describe the regenerative forces within nature and mythology, it conveys what we might want to call a feminine aesthetic in its notions of cyclical time. I was reminded of Yve Lomax’s thoughts, collected in her book Writing the Image on how to conceive of a multiplicity in the time of the photographic that encompasses both science and myth; ‘As the science of complexity tells us, nonlinear systems are everywhere, in every puff of wind, every swirl of mist, every cloud which dampens the day, every spring that flows gushing from our hearts. Has not love always known of the turbulence of nonlinear times?’(p130)
States of Matter confirms Holland’s determination to communicate her own original vision and the move into video work enriches her project. The installation at the Folly also consists of 8 photographic transparencies collectively entitled Electro-Light I which feature glass bottles and bowls, some of them cracked or broken, fish hooks, wire, hair, transparent layers of painted and drawn elements, each being lit from behind. More familiar to viewers of Holland’s previous work attached to the wall with crude aluminium brackets the installation of images suggests a cooler, more scientific exploration that some of the images in the film resist. Assembled from actual objects and one striking image of blood vessels sitting in a circle of light. these evoke direct bodily reference. The lightbulbs behind the pictures are on plain view and send shadows criss-crossing the walls in the dim light of the gallery. These aspects of the installation counter the highly developed aesthetic of the images and ground the references ultimately in the material rather than the spiritual. The spartan installation complements the aesthetic richness and complexity of the imagery. It provides something darker and edgier within the sense of otherworldliness.
A sound track of humming repeats itself intermittently throughout the film, broken by the sounds of wind and birdsong. The hum sounds electronic in origin and very persistent in the room on one’s own; much as the lightbulbs behind the pictures insist on their own, very physical presence.
Although on arrival at the gallery I was offered the choice to read the story on which the work is based it is not necessary to the appreciation of Holland’s intentions. The concerns are not specific only to this one story but, as Holland states in her introduction to the exhibition, they are found in many myths and stories. It is aspects of our shared culture Holland wants to draw our attention to, and the many ways they return to haunt us.

Ines Rae