Margherita Spiluttini - Beyond Nature: Constructions of Landscape At the Architectural Association, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1, until 13 February
In a recent talk on her work as an architectural photographer, Margherita Spiluttini showed three images by Le Corbusier, all juxtaposing a 1920s Citroën with one of his early villas. She accompanied them with the statement: 'Photography and reality have little to do with each other.'
'Beyond Nature: Constructions of Landscape', Spiluttini's first solo show in the UK, is about a specific, central European landscape: the trans-Alpine border zone between Spiluttini's native Austria and Switzerland. It represents a decade of work, from blackand-white prints of the early 1990s to large cibachrome, colour prints taken in 2001.
Spiluttini describes the project as an opportunity to present a 'freer' and expanded version of her photographic vision. Yet these images of a scarified Alpine landscape have much in common with her treatment of advanced European architecture, in working with, rather than against, the variables - bad weather, debris at the margins of a site or figures lingering in the frame.
The landscape of 'Beyond Nature' is one of origins - a source of rivers, raw materials and energy. It is also one of transition - of an almost phantasmic, high-altitude road system that keeps surfacing and disappearing in these images in its tireless dialogue with geology.
Beyond the sheer drama of the topographies depicted - of the anonymous labour of engineering in extreme conditions - what is striking about the show is the diverse approach to pictorial structure. It is refreshingly free of any one dominant signature trait and is, in this respect, in marked contrast to the type of solo shows of large-format photography normally seen in galleries.
Given her subject matter, Spiluttini's work might best be compared with so-called Grand Oeuvre photography of the late 19th century: the documentation of monumental engineering projects in such classic, object-centred images as Martinez Sanchez's study of a lighthouse at Ba±a Point and Charles Marville's scenes of geological turmoil during the construction of the Buttes-Chaumont Park in Paris. Spiluttini's landscape constructions mirror that early fusion of a new graphic media with an epoch of unbridled engineering ambition.
Beyond evolutions of a purely technical nature, the great difference between Spiluttini's images and the Grand Oeuvre photography of a century earlier is the marked presence of a consciousness that the photograph is every bit as much a construction as the built forms it documents. When Spiluttini speaks of a freedom in this work, it is the freedom to explore the artifice of photographic realism to the full.
Robin Wilson is a writer in London