Dark Line – The Thames Estuary

4 April – 15 June 2019

Flowers Gallery
529 West 20th Street
New York

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? ...That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, without the shadow of the future?” - Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

British photographer Nadav Kander is best known for Yangtze – The Long River, for which he earned the prestigious Prix Pictet award in 2009. In 2015, Nadav Kander began journeying to the Thames Estuary, to photograph the point of transition between the River Thames and the sea, creating atmospheric images of its slow-moving dark waters and seemingly infinite horizons.

On view for the first time in the United States, the works in this exhibition mark a shift towards the use of new image formats and an expanded use of media, including sculptural installations and moving image.

The elongated vertical photographic format recalls Chinese Shan Shui scroll painting, reflecting the abiding influence of Far Eastern aesthetics. Presented low to the ground, and with bodily proportions, they evoke a sense of weightlessness, inviting the viewer to ‘step off’ into the image.

Showing the Thames as sparse and monochromatic, with immeasurable distances disappearing into fog or bleeding into darkness, Kander discovered a marriage between subject, medium and metaphor that intimately reflected the nature of his inner experience. Kander’s increasingly abstracted photographs describe the landscape through minimal compositions, with a painterly layering of tones that appear to stain or bleed through the photographic surface. In these riverscapes, distant horizons are broken by disused artillery forts and dramatic, cathedral-like power stations and docks. Drawn to a sense of concealment within this environment, Kander’s photographs are shaped by the psychogeography of the estuary, echoing the shrouded histories embedded in the silt of the river and its turbulent waters.

Alongside the photographs are column-like steel water tanks, containing submerged objects extracted from the river, and a video installation The Edge of the Stream, with music specially commissioned by German-British composer Max Richter. The video, projected on suspended sheets, shows Kander slowly immersing and rising from a tidal ebb and flow of water, evoking a melancholic internal landscape of grief and longing.

In the production of Dark Line, Kander’s slower method of working has mirrored the pace of the river, developing a reductive abstract language to replace the ultra-realism of photography.

Kander says: “Today’s popular imagery is in some ways replacing language. People speak of their ‘snapchat story’ and emojis replace longer writing forms describing emotion. I wish to make work that does not literally describe what is in front of me. I do not wish to focus my lens and capture a millisecond of realistic information. I am moving away from common perceptions that photographs are the result of a lens that ‘focuses sharply’ on what is in front of it."