Fissure: An Intimate Portrait of Icelandic Ice is an artist book of 19 photographs of glaciers in Iceland by Ian van Coller. The book is large in scale, 25”x38” when open, and the photographs are printed on a gorgeous warm tone Japanese paper. The book is hand bound in the Drum Leaf form by master bookmaker Rory Sparks, and comes in a beautiful clamshell box. The book also includes a title page, a glacier index and a colophon, all of which are printed using letterpress by Rory Sparks.
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By Ian van Coller
Fissures are the dark, deep, narrow openings within a body—a separation of substance that was once an integrated whole. These clefts expose intimate, subterranean layers previously concealed from view, which promise to reveal secret interiors and greater truths within. Fissures are also schisms, ruptures that divide wholes into parts, and often result in unalterable separations. I chose this concept for all of its anatomical, geological and political connotations as a way to explore the inherent complexities within masses of glacial ice.
Glaciers have flourished in Iceland’s relatively young volcanic landscape. Sub-glacial eruptions bring ancient, molten material from deep inside the earth to glacial surfaces, where it rearranges landscapes and carves new glacial architecture. Far from the cerulean hues of glacial ice found in Argentina and Alaska, Iceland’s glaciers are full of grit and grime from successive eruptions. Fissures within the ice mark the beginning of a separation—the calving of glacial chunks into frozen lakes, which eventually float down icy rivers to end up in the sea as glassy fragments of their former selves.
My images of Icelandic glaciers are also metaphors of anatomy and decay. The dirt cones left behind by glacial melt, aged counterparts of the gravelly striations visible within clefts, mimic human anatomy in their shape. Both the fissures and the cones reveal a gritty beauty and fragility as the glaciers retreat, and larger interior sections slowly decompose.
Part of my intent with this series is to challenge the perception that glaciers are remote, irrelevant, or a remnant curiosity from a distant ice age. My photographs are more akin to character studies—carefully composed portraits—that capture elements of both their formation and their decay. These glacial fissures also function as a metaphor for the schisms and contradictions within human thought and action related to climate change.
All of these large-scale images are printed on a Japanese paper selected for its ability to capture subtle shifts in line and color, and convey both texture and the play of light. This particular paper gives dimensionality to the photographs, and transforms what might have been overly ‘clean’ digital images into warm and tactile objects more commonly associated with printmaking. The prints are further transformed into three-dimensional objects in the form of a limited-edition, monumental handmade artist book, which allows the viewer to feel each page as it is turned, and engage more closely with the work.