Darren Almond: Fire Under Snow
Time is of great importance to the British artist Darren Almond and the perception of its passing features in all his work—whether it be film, installation or photography. From an external perspective the time is certainly now for Almond who has started the year with concurrent shows in two very prestigious London galleries; undoubtedly this is not a happy coincidence, but perfect planned synchronicity. The first show at the White Cube in Hoxton finished last month, the second at the Parasol unit runs until the end of March.
During a talk in the Parasol unit last week the artist contextualized his current work by describing his childhood in Northern England, whiling away the hours trainspotting and being brought up by two parents whose jobs, father down the mine and mother in a factory, were ruled by clocking on and clocking off. Trains, mines, factories, work and of course time all play an important part in this show, but these themes have been transferred from rural England to more extreme climates.
The new railway line linking China and Tibet blasts its way on to the triptych of screens for the film "In The Between," (2006), with footage of chanting Buddhist monks in the Lhasa monastery caught in the middle. The sound of the rushing train clashes with the hypnotic chanting to symbolize the clash of cultures and the imperialist mechanism of the penetrating railway. The title of the show "Fire Under Snow" is a reference to the political situation in Tibet.
From Tibet we travel to the freezing wilderness of Siberia where the large format black and white photographs of "Night + Fog," (2007, pictured above) show the decimated forests surrounding the nickel-mining towns of Norilsk and Monchegorsk. The pollution from the industry has killed all the trees and made the landscape uninhabitable.
Two other works, a film of workers in a sulfur mine in Indonesia and an installation of clocks (one master and 600 slave clocks following time) only serve to reinforce the stark impression of the extremes of human toil and exploitation. While the subject matter is severe Almond injects a sensitivity and beauty into his work which almost redeems the brutality.