January 24 - March 21, 2015
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to present an exhibition of Simon Norfolk’s recent photography, Stratographs. Award winning and published widely, Norfolk’s photography is celebrated for its timely and topical subject matter seen with an eye for the sublime. Norfolk’s recent work, first featured in the New York Times Magazine, is a visualization of the receding Lewis Glacier on Mt. Kenya. With Stratographs, Norfolk uses photography, drawing, and GPS mapping to convey the historical impact of climate change in a humanizing and conscientious manner.
A recurring theme in Simon Norfolk’s work is time. Focused on contemporary events and interest, his past works Afghanistan: chronotopia and Ascension Island: The Panopticon found Norfolk capturing landscapes awash in the social and political layers of recent human history. With Stratographs, Norfolk’s ambition was to map, in his words, “time’s thickness” by documenting and illustrating the swiftly receding Lewis Glacier on Mt. Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa. Using the most primordial of elements, fire, Norfolk pyrographically maps the historical faces of the Lewis Glacier that have receded in recent decades. Using long exposures made in the middle of the night, Norfolk’s images result from the simple act of walking with fire along the glacier’s previous boundaries (the year of the boundary being illustrated is noted in each photograph’s title). To say Norfolk’s pyrographic drawing is simple, however, masks a process of research and collaboration (with the non-profit Project Pressure) that was necessary to find accurate GPS coordinates for the Lewis Glacier’s prior limits. The results of Norfolk’s scientific and aesthetic endeavor are astonishing in their clarity: a series of haunting images in which ribbons of fire hover above the land, contrasting Mt. Kenya’s rough landscape and the cold, looming presence of the Lewis Glacier.
Though scientific evidence may indicate human, industrial culpability in climate change, a challenge of recent decades has been how to convey such information in a persuasive, visual form. Landmark achievements have included the Al Gore written An Inconvenient Truth from 2006 and 2012’s Chasing Ice, which followed photographer James Balog in his efforts to depict glacial recession. Simon Norfolk’s work on Mt. Kenya is certainly part of this emerging documentary movement, yet his aesthetic interests add symbolic elements absent in his peers’ work. For Norfolk not only accurately maps the Lewis Glacier, but relies on an action that recalls the land art of Richard Long or Hamish Fulton, both of whom emphasized acts of walking, mapping, and communing with our natural world. In Norfolk, the act of walking meets the element of fire. Here fire functions as a drawn line, and also symbolically; fire is the primordial element that first provided a gathering point for human culture and, through the burning of fossil fuels, represents a swiftly changing climate.