The horizon line—that vast, delimiting edge of things—has always compounded the familiar with the unknown. While a clear view of the skyline might be commonplace, there is something awe-inspiring and unsettling about its limitlessness, even centuries after Columbus reminded us that Earth is round. Determined to draw out the complex emotions that immense, uncharted spaces inspire, Australian photographer Murray Fredericks makes images of barren landscapes and big skies. In an exhibition of new work at Hamiltons Gallery, he gives us vistas from some of the world’s flattest, faraway expanses.
Over the last 10 years Fredericks has spent much of his time, with only equipment and books to keep his company, in Australia’s Lake Eyre salt basin and Greenland’s tundra. He was attracted to their fiercely minimal landscapes—not a tree to intrude on the line between ground and sky for miles. Over many trips, and many days when survival took precedent over photo taking, he amassed serial, sublime views that fall somewhere between straight landscape and pure abstraction.
The Lake Eyre series, “Salt,” captures cracked land and shape-shifting, star-studded skies in panoramas that feel more sci-fi than earthly. Salt 400, Salt 401, and Salt 402 (all 2014) offer three nighttime views of the same place. While the color and form of each image varies, the impression remains the same. In a land where auroral atmosphere wildly outweighs solid ground (in both circumference and shock value), what does it mean for us, its tiny inhabitants?
“Topophilia,” the series taken in Greenland, propels Fredericks’s penchant for the otherworldly a step further—straight to the firmament. In Ice Sheet #0712 and Ice Sheet #4724, land and air integrate almost completely in gauzy, monochromatic color fields. Only the sun (or is it a vortex, or a third eye?) helps us define which way is up.