Liza Dracup: Landmarks at Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate
Liza Dracup is a British contemporary photographer whose work captures a magical and often eerie atmosphere, revealing a photographic vision unavailable to the eye. For her new series of photographs, Landmarks, on show at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, from 17 September 2016 until 8 January 2017, she turns her attention to photographic material in the Harrogate Fine Art collection.
Dracup was given access to the Mercer Art Gallery’s collection of Victorian photographs and invited to respond to them in her own way. She selected mainly stereoscopic photographs taken within a 35 km radius around Harrogate, often by anonymous photographers, ones which gave her “the feeling of the ordinary landscape’.
Landmarks features well loved and familiar Yorkshire locations: Hackfall Woods, The Strid Wood at Bolton Abbey, the spectacular railway bridge crossing the River Nidd at Knaresborough and Ilkley Moor, all seen through Dracup’s painterly lens. She often explores aspects of the landscape at different times of the day and night, where the shutter remains open long enough to capture parts of the spectrum that are normally invisible to the eye. It is, says Dracup, an “in-between light” that reveals opposites: “light and dark, day and night, ‘truth’ and ‘illusion’”.
Long exposures, such as her photograph of the spectacular railway bridge crossing the river Nidd at Knaresborough, give the effect of layering and the natural side lighting also adds a sense of theatrical drama. Her pictures of Ilkley Moor at night, where the warming-up sodium street light illuminates the underbranches of a fir tree, picking out each twig in a bright and usually hidden red, reveal patches of colour and light which have a magical quality, allowing you to stumble into a secret place.
A stereoscopic photograph of a botanical specimen inspired the plant series in Landmarks, Dracup explains: “The stereoscopic photograph of the cased fern in the Mercer collection caught my attention as it reflected the Victorian sensibility of preservation and bringing the outside in for the purpose of study, observation and decoration. I took these principles and updated them photographically”.
Dracup, a north of England based photographer, has developed a national reputation for her photographic practice, being previously nominated for both the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012 and the Prix Pictet (Earth) Photography Award 2009.
The exhibition is accompanied by a beautiful colour catalogue with an essay by art historian Michael Prodger, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham, who comments: “This exhibition then is not just about Dracup’s response to the Mercer’s archive but about threads: those that link her own work, past and present; those that link her to previous photographers; those that link her to a place; and above all those that link her – and the viewer – to scenes and subjects that resonate with an indefinable sense of mystery.”
LIZA DRACUP: Landmarks is at the Mercer Art Gallery, Swan Road, Harrogate from 17 September 2016 to 8 January 2017, Admission is free. For more info visit www.harrogate.gov.uk/mercerartgallery
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