13.2 – 9.3 2019
Jem Southam:Long White Cloud
13.02 – 09.03.2019
Huxley-Parlour are pleased to announce an exhibition of new works by Jem Southam, perhaps the most important British landscape photographer working today. In 2018, after a lifetime of making work in the South West of Britain, Southam made his first overseas trip to produce his latest body of work in New Zealand. The works in the exhibition are the result of a six-week journey around the North and South Islands, and have never been exhibited before.
These new photographs build and expand on themes that Southam has explored throughout his forty-year career. They show his continued fascination with the subtleties of colour, with reflection and transience, and with the effects of the shifting seasons and weather on the landscape. Southam’s work is characterised by its balance of poetry and lyricism within a documentary practice. His photographs present a sociological and physiological investigation into the landscape, touching on man’s intervention in nature, and the cycle of decay and renewal.
Influenced by tales of New Zealand’s discovery by seafaring Polynesians, in The Long White Cloud Southam focuses on bodies of water found on the island.The series took him to Milford Sound and Mount Cook where he documented the watery landscapes enveloped by a huge variety of atmospheres and conditions. The resulting large-scale photographs document the country’s lakes, rivers and dramatic waterfalls, with Southam gaining inspiration from the constant and seamless cycle of matter, from air to water to cloud and vapour, and back again. Exploring notions of the sublime in the varied natural landscapes of New Zealand, these photographs accentuate the connections between the drama of nature to the inherent mythologies of the land.
‘Aeoteroa’, or ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’, was the name given to the North Island of New Zealand when the Maori navigators first saw signs of the new land in the formations of drawn out strands of cloud spreading across the horizon. It is the dynamic at the heart of this apparition that these pictures aim to explore. The remarkably rich and varied physical profusion of landforms of New Zealand apprehended and made manifest through the momentary shifts of light and the weather. – Jem Southam
Video: Jem Southam: The Long White Cloud
B. United Kingdom 1950
Jem Southam’s richly detailed works document subtle changes and transitions of the South West English landscape, allowing the artist to explore cycles of life and death through spring and winter, and also to reveal the subtlest of human interventions in the natural landscape. His work is characterised by its balance of poetry and lyricism within a documentary practice.
Southam’s works exclusively in series, with bodies of work including Bristol City Docks (1977 – 1984); Paintings of West Cornwall (1982 – 1986); The Red River (1982-1987); The Raft of Carrots (1992); The Shape of Time: Rockfalls, Rivermouths and Ponds (2000); and Upton Pyne and the Red River (2007). Southam’s early and seminal body of work The Red River followed a small stream in the West of Cornwall from source to sea, documenting the legacy of tin mining on the river’s valley and the people who live there.
His 2012 series The River – Winter investigated how the concept of winter is embedded in society’s shared imagination. The series traced the passage of a single winter, following the path of the river Exe and its tributaries in Devon. The Moth (2018), revisits sites from The Red River made almost two decades earlier. Inspired by the old English poems ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘The Seafarer’, the series moves freely between interior and exterior, from sweeping vistas to quiet, overlooked details of rural life. Southam’s 2018 series The Long White Cloud is the result of a six-week journey to document the landscapes of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. The photographs in this series show his continued fascination with the subtleties of colour, with reflection and transience, and with the effects of the shifting seasons and weather on the landscape. Exploring notions of the sublime in the varied natural landscapes of New Zealand, these photographs accentuate the connections between the drama of nature to the inherent mythologies of the land.
Born in Bristol in 1950, Southam has had solo exhibitions at The Photographers Gallery, London, Tate St Ives, Cornwall and The Victoria & Albert Museum, London. His work is held in many important collections, including those of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Museum Folkwang, Essen, the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, and the The Victoria & Albert Museum. He is currently Professor of Photography at the University of Plymouth.