Catalogue entry

T03079 LANGDALE FELL 1979

Inscribed on reverse ‘John Hilliard 1979/No.1 (of 3 versions)’
Black and white photographs and letraset mounted on board, 29 3/8 × 41 (74.6 × 104.2)
Purchased from the Lisson Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Exh: John Hilliard, Lisson Gallery, April–May 1980 (no catalogue); Art Anglais d'Aujourd'hui: Collection Tate Gallery, Londres, Musée Rath, Geneva, July–September 1980 (10, repr.as ‘Langdale Fell, Motion Frozen/Frozen Motion’); Medunarodna Izložba Likovnih Umetnosti Beograd'80, Muzej Savremene Umetnosti, Belgrade, October–December 1980 (Hilliard 3, repr.)
Lit: John Hilliard, ‘Unpopulated Rural Black-and-White Exteriors/Populated Urban Coloured Interiors’, Aspects, 1, October–December 1977, n.p.
Repr: John Hilliard, Borderland, Orchard Gallery, Londonderry, 1981, n.p.

This work relies on what Hilliard has described as ‘an elementary photographic choice - whether to operate either a stationary or a travelling camera when the picture frame includes both static and moving elements. Panning in the direction of motion or maintaining a fixed position, may result in the “arrest” of quite different sets of information, to the extent that the inverse camera actions cause inversions of both appearance and significance between the stable and unstable picture components (each in turn rendered with clarity or as an indistinct blur)’ (from an article by Hilliard published in Creative Camera, April 1979).

Like ‘Over Deepdale’ (T03078), ‘Langdale Fell’ was photographed in Cumbria. It shows two photographs, mounted side by side, of a partially frozen waterfall discovered in the Langdale Valley in December 1979. In order to photograph the left-hand panel, ‘frozen motion’, the camera was fully focussed and held in a fixed position, so that the flowing water registered as a blur, while the ice adjacent to it was clearly recorded. For the right-hand panel, Hilliard tried to imitate with a hand-held camera what appeared to be the speed of the flowing water. The result is that the frozen section of the waterfall registers as a blur while the moving water is arrested.

By the way in which he has juxtaposed the two discrete photographs Hilliard has established a ‘false’ pictorial continuum, which at the same time reiterates the ambiguity inherent in the two images. The words embedded in the images literally invert the pictoral content of each, while describing the process by which the photographs were obtained. The contradiction ‘frozen motion’ relates to the camera having been ‘frozen’ to obtain a picture of motion but also to the image of the frozen waterfall. This statement echoes the pictorial continuum by carrying over to ‘motion frozen’ where, by moving the camera, the artist was figuratively able to ‘freeze’ the moving water.

Hilliard took the photographs with a Nikon, using a one second exposure for the left-hand panel and a shorter exposure for the right-hand panel. They were printed by Adrian Ensor. Two versions of the work exist, and the second is in a private collection.

In addition, Hilliard has made two other similar works based on waterfalls but employing a vertical format, ‘Frozen Motion/Motion Frozen’ and ‘Frozen’. Both works were also made in 1979. The former is illustrated in the catalogue for Aspects of British Art Today, a British Council exhibition which toured Japan (February–October 1982); the latter appears in the artist's book Borderland, op.cit.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984