In Caspar David Friedrich’s 1817 painting, Wanderer Above a Sea of Mists (En.), we are presented with a man atop a rocky crag in full-rear pose, where all behind him is clear and nearly all before him is veiled by fog. With his back to us, his identity and expression remain unseen. In a way, we are positioned to gaze through the lenses of his own eyes, knowing only what he has witnessed, faced with the same uncertainty and obscurity of future paths to which he cannot yet attest.
And just as Friedrich invited us almost two hundred years ago to be his wanderer, peering through the eyes of his subject, Dave Hurn and Michael Coombs bid us observe a landscape of documented histories and untrodden courses through their own respective lenses in This Way We Came.
Inherent in this exhibition is a distinct hopefulness. The use of film and much vintage equipment is no stubborn rejection of the shifts in technology that their generation has seen, as no argument for stagnation is suggested. Historically, the Enlightenment would be balanced in Romanticism just as The Analects were counterweighted in the Tao. Each offered merits the other did not, and such cycles and equalisations are a constant. Communities preserve languages—Gaelic, Breton, even Latin, because more is gained by their presence than their absence. Visual language is no exception. When painters feared the death of their medium upon the advent of photography, Modern Art took root, and paint is still being applied to canvas at this exact moment. When the last Polaroid factory was very recently scheduled for demolition, it was quickly bought and rejuvenated to great success. Michael Coombs and Dave Hurn consider the past as much as they peer towards that misty future.
This way we came, and this way we shall continue.
Adam Fine - 2012