Dark Line – The Thames Estuary
Dark Line – The Thames Estuary

When alone, there is nowhere I'd rather be than beside large bodies of slow moving water. I feel myself, quiet and alive as emotions come and go. Travelling to the estuary in the dark, often alone, and returning home at nightfall has affected how I see this place - not as a geographical landscape, but as a mystical space, somehow otherworldly and full of intrigue.

My studio in the very early hours is another place of great solitude. Rising early, I often find myself working for hours before it gets light. The greater majority of the image-creation process happens here; it takes a good picture to make a good print, but it's what happens in the studio that is most decisive.

Treating the river as a metaphor for the perpetual cycle of change and renewal, my editing process echoes this slow pace. Revisiting previously finished prints many times to reflect changing rhythms within the series, I can refine a single image for months until it starts to take shape on paper. Lengthy exposures, layering, and over-printing evoke the sense of concealment I experience near expanses of dark water. It is this element of the unknown that both moves me and frightens me. As a sequence of images evolves, the separate elements gradually fit together creating a cadence of both transition and harmony.

I could not have made this work anywhere else. Taking starting points from historic sites such as disused artillery forts, and locations from texts by Conrad or Dickens, these images invoke the past through their attachment to place but they also point to the future through the onward trajectory of the river. The traces of human life left behind in the silt of the riverbed play a huge part in how I work within this landscape, processing the river's rich history of invasion, settlement and commerce as I walk along the banks.

Hanging vertically and low to the ground, these framed prints mirror bodily proportions. Composed at varying heights, the horizon line offers a subjective or symbolic point of contact between two expanses; you look up and see the heavens and down you see the earth. I invite the viewer to physically approach each work as a place in which to feel.

Compared to Yangtze – The Long River, a previous series I made in China, Dark Line – The Thames Estuary paradoxically adopts a closer relationship to far-eastern aesthetics. Whilst I set out to reference the tradition of Shan Shui scroll paintings with Yangtze, that work could be seen as following more of a European or American landscape lineage. By showing the Thames as sparse and monochromatic, with immeasurable distances disappearing into the fog, it was closer to home that I found a marriage between subject, medium and metaphor that intimately reflects my inner experience.

Nadav Kander, 2017