Saturday November 15 – Friday November 21
Tracey Holland is doing more enchanting things with a camera than anyone else around. She charms the eye with her photographed memento-m9riassemblages of dust and rust and all things shrivelled, pickled and dead. Extra-special arrangements of squashed frogs, rotting lizards, filigree flies “wings, locks of human hair and be-feathered fish-hooks occupy the foreground. In the background, a host of ambiguous shadows shift. Immaculate technical control of stained-glass atmospheres rescues the works from any hint of morbid Goth cliches. Anybody not skint could do worse than go buy one before Holland hits the big time (surely imminent).
The Workstation, Sheffield
Saturday 15, until December 12
December 11th 1995
A magic lantern show to die for
Tracey Holland Dean Clough, Halifax
You don’t have to be a follower of the Turner prize to realise that death, putrefaction and viral contagion have been the artistic flavours of ’95. Before Damien Hirst’s bisected cow and calf hit the headlines and the Turner jackpot, there were Andres Serrano’s extraordinary photographs of corpses in a morgue, which were the visual centrepiece of this year’s Edinburgh festival.
Yet few things age so quickly as state-of-the-art mortality. Fin de siecle misery eventually acquires a sickly sweet taste. So who on earth has dug deep enough into the aesthetic potential of all this to outlast their hearse- jumping colleagues’15 minutes of fame? Tracey Holland for one.
Here, the 34-year-old Sheffield based artist sets up an installation, transforming a backlit screen of grimy old factory windows into a series of magic lantern views of a world of metamorphic enchantment -frogs car-squashed into postures of balletic grace, a pallid row of salted squid, a blue skinned lizard that has given up the ghost, sexy strands of jet black horsehair, bunches of rusted keys, iridescent fishhook feathers, faceless, handless watches.
Holland gathers together her memento mori casts with a rare eye for the formal attractions of fetishistic peculiarity. Then she photographs them and simply presents her large prints and transparencies as elaborate reversals of life’s everyday facade. All Holland’s little creatures and
things appear disconnected, abandoned, yet at the same time unified by a redeeming atmospheric glow. This is perhaps why her assembled companies of death rarely seem morbid. To the contrary, they sometimes appear imbued with some kind of unthought -of spirituality.
The window frames with which Holland constructs her installation were salvaged from a derelict cutlery factory. The panes here and there still have the pitted texture caused by airborne buffing stone. Draughtsmen’s drawings and pages from the works ledgers are waxed and aged into translucence. Such urban evidences create a stage-set of post-industrial dereliction against which the various creeping and crawling characters can play out their illuminated rites. An accompanying series of12 wall-hung photographs suggests the passing of time with lyrical backgrounds of leaves and berries and contributes a balancing tone of optimism.
This is a dreadfully hard kind of art to bring off. The artist’s huge colour photos of game birds come dangerously close to Country Life covers, and one occasionally wishes the work was less relentlessly charming. Holland’s most powerful images remain those in which she has managed to distil all the fancy stuff down to one vital radiance. Or one overall glowering shadow.
Tracey Holland, The Twelve Keys. Installation and Photographs,
Dean Clough Gallery, Halifax, until January 7.