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Engstligenalp 1

Engstligenalp 1, 2019


Schilt, Grindelwald First, 2019


Hääggenstubeli, Meiringen, 2019


Hahnemoos, Adelboden, 2019


Chaltebrunne, Gstaad, 2021


Avalanche, Grindelwald, 2019

Grindelwald First

Schilt 2, Grindelwald First, 2019


Ice Climbing 1, Engstligenalp, 2020


Igloo Cafe, Engstligenalp, 2020


Schilthorn 2, 2019


Ski Tour & Bunny Hill, Engstligenalp, 2020


Cabins, Meiringen, 2019


Langlauf 2, Engstilgenalp, 2020


Kleine Scheidegg, Grindelwald, 2019


Alpine Lake, Meiringen, 2019


Rail Bridge, Grindelwald, 2019



Oberland is a suite of winterscapes from the Berner Oberland. This mountainous area lies just west of Switzerland's geographical middle, north of the Rhone watershed, and south and east from the federal-not-capital city of Bern. It's where Sherlock Holmes fell to his death over Reichenbach Falls. It was the destination for Thomas Cook's first international package tour. Some call it the birthplace of skiing although archeological evidence indicates that people have slid on planks for millennia, and Norway's Telemark region has a stronger, more storied case for some birthplace of modern skiing designation. The germ of World Cup racing came from the Bernese Alps though. That's more than enough gilding for a region that doesn't need any most or best or first rankings. It has nice mountains and good snow. There are 34 ski areas within striking distance of a city Goethe described as the most beautiful he'd ever seen. They range from large modern destinations to a lone steep T-bar in a north facing bowl.

While perusing discussions of winterscapes I found this passage in a text on structuralism: “When a European gazes at a snowscape and sees only snow, an Inuit, with over fifty words for snow sees a very different landscape”. It's an old rhetorical flap. I'm not surprised that the “high number” of Inuktitut words is “sharply criticized by... linguists and anthropologists”. Europeans' conception of snow has been radically understated. English ski parlance alone has a dozen ways to describe fresh fluffy snow. On top of those are regionalisms, slang, the jargons of other fields, and the varieties of snow that aren't fresh and fluffy.

Oberland tends to focus on the last category. Powder days are for skiing so the series is built upon chunder, crud and a couple of dumps that were great yesterday but got sticky overnight (I think Swedes call this Blötsnö). This work celebrates the vague grandeur of middling winter days. Its scenes have low Norman Rockwell stakes and Breughelesque proportions that diminish dramas even further. Figures in these images articulate scale and depth more than they evoke emotion. As jpgs the “white” that fills each frame may be reduced to very pale tones of not-quite chroma. The prints however are intricate with delicate Agnes Martin lines and esses and sideslips that reveal distinct exhilarations and complicate notions of blankness. They illustrate structure as well as facade. In this snow is analogous a photograph print's balance of visual depth and physical surface.


Stephen Bulger Gallery

Oberland opens September 2021

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