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Friends of SPRI Artist in Residence - Previous Artists

Friends of SPRI Artist in Residence - Previous Artists

Antarctic:

2014/15: Darren Rees

Daren joined HMS Protector as artist in residence in 2015.

'It was truly memorable experience in so many ways, and I'd like to thank all at SPRI, the Royal Navy, and on the Falklands for making my trip of a lifetime possible.'

Darren Rees is an artist and naturalist with nearly thirty years' experience of sharing the wonder of the natural world.

Since his acclaimed solo book Bird Impressions his paintings have attracted many national awards, particularly his recent body of work from the High Arctic.

Darren was born in Hampshire in 1961. Darren uses a variety of media, most commonly watercolour in the field, and acrylic and oil paint for larger landscapes and studio works. Darren's work relates to his encounters with the natural world – he has travelled extensively, from the Amazon to the Arctic and many points between.

Darren says he is truly thrilled and honoured to be given the opportunity by the SPRI to experience the grand landscapes and abundance of life at the opposite end of the world.

penguin berg

King Penguins at Volunteer Point, Falklands Cathedral berg at Rothera


2013/14: John Kelly

John joined HMS Protector as artist in residence in January 2014.

John KellyJohn Kelly was born in London in 1949 and graduated from Leeds University. He moved to Oxford, where he taught Geography during 1971–1985. He now lives and works in Brighton and since the 1990s has travelled extensively producing journals on topographical and architectural interpretation.

Residences and Fellowships
HMS Protector, Royal Navy (Friends of the Scott Polar Research Institute)
British Antarctic Survey, Svalbard Research Station (NERC)
Newfoundland and Labrador Museum, Aland Archipeligo, Finland
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, Anchorage Museum, Alaska
Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, Alaska, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge
Reykjavik University, Iceland, London School of Theology


2012/13: Emma Stibbon

Exhibition: Ice Limit 11 June - 5 September 2015

Emma Stibbon RA joined HMS Protector in the Antarctic as the Friends' Artist in Residence.

Emma StibbonEmma Stibbon RA studied Fine Art BA Hons at Goldsmiths, London and Research Fine Art MA at the University of the West of England, Bristol, she is Senior Lecturer Fine Art Printmaking at the University of Brighton. Recent solo exhibitions include the Stadtmuseum, Berlin, upstairs berlin, Rabley Drawing Centre and R O O M, London. Other projects include the Stiftung Federkiel residency at the Spinnerei, Leipzig, the 4th International Gyumri Biennale, Armenia and a recent Derek Hill scholarship residency at the British School at Rome. Her work is held in private and public collections including the Stadtmuseum, Berlin, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Emma writes, 'I am privileged to have been chosen as the Antarctica Artist Placement for 2013 by the Friends of SPRI and HMS Protector, sponsored by Bonhams. I have long been fascinated by Antarctica; it is a remarkable landscape unlike anywhere else on the planet. As an artist working from remote landscape it is extremely difficult to gain five weeks access to such a place. During my placement I plan to gather inspiration through drawing from observation, and photography, which I will develop back in my studio into large-scale drawings and prints. I aim to suggest a sense of the strength, resilience and yet ultimate fragility of this last wilderness. Recording has always been an important part of Polar Science; most pre-photography expeditions would have included an artist. I am interested in what role the artist can play on a contemporary voyage. In addition to my field trip I am looking forward to researching the collections at SPRI and presenting my work in an exhibition there in 2015.'

Read more about Emma's polar drawings in Nancy Campbell's article for The Island Review. An exhibition at SPRI is planned for June 2015. Please see The Polar Museum web pages for further details.

Artwork by Emma Stibbon Artwork by Emma Stibbon


2010/2011: Dafila Scott

Exhibition: The Edge of Beyond: Paintings from the Antarctic, 15 May - 30 June 2012

Dafila Scott joined HMS Scott in the Antarctic as the 2011 Friends' Artist in Residence.

Dafila ScottDafila trained as a zoologist, before turning to drawing and painting in oils, watercolour and pastels. Much of her work is inspired by landscape. She is a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists and has exhibited regularly at their annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries, as well as at regional shows and at other galleries. She paints either from life or from a combination of field sketches and memory. She has taken courses with painters and art teachers and is especially grateful for the inspirational teaching of Robin Child at the Lydgate Art Research Centre.

The granddaughter of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, she already has Antarctic experience as the illustrator of a book on the region's wildlife. Of the opportunity to become the Friends of SPRI Artist in Residence, she says,

Antarctica is the last great wilderness and, since 1961 when the Antarctic Treaty came into being, it has been a great example of peaceful co-existence and collaboration among nations in the interests of science. The Scott Polar Research Institute has played an important part in the scientific work done in Antarctica and there is still much more to be done.

For me, the opportunity to go to Antarctica on the centenary of my grandfather's last expedition is amazing, and as an artist, I hope I can produce work which will bring the excitement and fascination of the place to a wider audience. I am very grateful to the Friends of the Scott Polar Research Institute, who are sponsoring this trip, and to the Royal Navy, in particular the Commanding Officer and crew of HMS Scott.

Recent work includes both figurative wildlife paintings and abstract landscapes inspired by visits to Wales and to the South African Kalahari. However, she is equally happy to gain inspiration at home in the garden or on the surrounding fenland. In 2003 she won the RSPB Fine Art Award and in 2008 she won the Abstract category of the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition.


Luigi Peak
Luigi Peak by Rowan Huntley

2009/2010: Rowan Huntley

Rowan Huntley was our inaugural Artist in Residence. Initially planning to go South with HMS Endurance, she eventually joined HMS Scott in Jan/Feb 2010.

Read more on her time in the Antarctic - and on her subsequent exhibition aboard HMS Scott in Cardiff in June 2010.

Rowan donated a painting from her sojourn for auction by the Friends - the winning bid was £750, the proceeds going to help the work of the Friends in supporting the Scott Polar Research Institute's activities.



Arctic:

2016: Julian Grater

Svalbard Residency Report

JulianI had been to Longyearbyen in Svalbard five years ago, primarily in order to visit the Global Seed Vault and Svalsat, to consider this extreme architecture and the buildings that now define a frontier, in an attempt to search out a new way of describing what was happening to the far north. On this occasion, unable to move from Longyearbyen, I had vowed to to return at some point in the future, but subsequent visits to Greenland had put that return temporarily to rest. A patient waiting game had set in, to be reignited in June 2016 by the generosity of the Scott Polar Research Institute's Artist in Residence Programme. It's first high north residency opportunity.

A meeting of the onboard party had assembled in Oslo as the first phase of the journey, introductions and meetings framed by the context of the Fram Museum, hosted to great effect. I had met my travelling companions and we were underway, the history of one ice breaker soon to give way to another, the Akademik Sergei Vavilov. The sense of history and polar exploration was palpable on board. Memories of the Vavilov's participation in the Canadian high arctic, facilitating the sonar work that recently resulted in the discovery of Franklin's long lost ship the Erebus, was evident. The ship was then to serve as a platform for the Canadian Government's state of the art underwater survey vehicle. It had 'form' and we were now jigsawing into this history, into another of its thrilling high arctic stories.

On leaving the harbour in Longyearbyen, a day later, a coastline of unique appearance began to unfold and pass by. I had visited the arctic before, but never in the summer. Seeing the towering corrugated bluffs revealed and free of snow cover, inhabited by fauna and flora in apparent abundance was exhilarating. So, itineraries were improvised, a northbound heading, promptly became a south bound heading; ice conditions defining points on the compass and the direction of travel. A circumnavigation of Spitzbergen was underway. A dead calm was soon to give way to something close to the vortex of Turner's painting, Snow Storm off a Harbour's Mouth. A prolonged force 8 gale whilst rounding the southern cape of Spitzbergen was an endurance. I wondered then, was this vortex of Turner's, a natural phenomena, or in fact the depiction of a cerebral 'swim' brought about by the disorientation and paralysis of sea sickness. A painting of the mind at sea. Battling through this turbulence was a challenge indeed, the clock ticking, work periodically arrested by the nausea. It came as a relief to make it through the buffeting turbulence and to be heading north along the east coast into calmer seas, icebergs visible on the black swell, soon to blanket out into a monochromatic spatial dissolve in the pack ice at Edgeoya.

Julian at workNumerous glaciers calved icebergs, witnessed at close proximity from the zodiacs at Monacobreen. The surface of the sea fizzed and cracked as the gases released from the floating ice litter exploded into shrapnel under the glare of the sun. The forces of nature were at work and we were witness to this extraordinary sensory spectacle. Way out on the mouth of the fjords, icebergs defied gravity, back- lit and silhouetted, levitating above the ocean horizon in a solar shimmer. Meanwhile on land, the charcoal black terminal moraines were growing ever longer, delineating the retreat of their calving glacial heads.

What artists need is space and time, particularly during residencies of short duration. This is an imperative, an absolute prerequisite in order to initiate formative ideas inextricably linked with the physical production of the work itself. Emergent ideas which may require more than the plein air recording of the quickly observed. During residencies where the nature of the environment is informing the artist's practice, whether working from it, or with it, creating these formative visual ideas requires a degree of solitude in order to reflect upon and critique this creatively critical period.

From my own perspective, establishing ideas and the visual precursors to studio based works which would come later, required these solitary moments of reflection and revision in order to feel that there was a likelihood of quickly made work having the potential for any significant longevity.

It was fortuitous to be able to secure LAB T on the top deck of the Academik Sergey Vavilov and I felt good to be in a laboratory space that I could improvise as a studio, in an endeavour to transform, in a short space of time, this initial empirical response. Developing a phase of 'bridging' works; works that would perhaps later inform paintings. This strategy provided a durable process template, from the immediacy of a thumbnail drawing, triggered by a fleeting moment, to a more considered idea about the validity of image and composition. Testing out these ideas, the ice becoming both the receiver and transmitter of the psychological. I do think, critically, for the artist at least, that the 'icescape' like a landscape is a non objective phenomena. It's vastness and unfamiliarity is something to be assimilated and reinvented through the artists own psyche and search for meaning in it.

A relationship with the ice based on beauty and terror, the notion that somehow the extreme high arctic is a terrible, hostile, unpunctuated, uninflected minimalist blankness, bereft of form and animation seems a misconception. Quite the reverse, at least in my own imagination, is true. The crust of 'white' is a receiver, perpetually in a constant state of flux, pertinent to both it's form and colour, degrading and decaying, continually rebuilding itself, much like the human imagination and it is this arctic induced imagination that must transform the extreme nature of the visual environment. I might contest here that the depiction of the polar regions, requires more than documentary reportage, even though I may rely on an initial phase of this. It could be suggested that this has indeed had its time, particularly as mapped out and defined so successfully during the 'heroic' age of polar exploration, and I would be the first to acknowledge that the respective works of Edward Wilson, Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley still resonate through to the modern era as some of the most insightful and powerful visualisations of the polar south, just as the works of Rockwell Kent, Lawren Harris and William Bradford, just to name few, remain enduring depictions of the high arctic north, but in an age pervaded by information technology, where the macro has collapsed into data, the imagination is tested more than ever, in an attempt to find a visual language that resonates with the issues that the arctic of the modern era now faces.

Julian and his work I guess that my proposition here is in itself a highly reflexive, melancholic meditation on the enigma of the arctic personality itself, on the very idea of human interiority. A psychologising of the transience and ephemerality of the inside of things and the properties of the ice itself, a condition Glenn Gould referred to in the Idea of North, when reflecting upon the Canadian arctic, as an "Awareness of the creative opportunities which the physical fact of the country represents"… the far north as a state of mind, the physical north standing as threshold for the conceptual north.

What happens to the mind, body and imagination when implanted into a place like this? This overwhelming sense of spatial vastness is a physiological experience. Sooner or later… and you've decided that this is a place that you're going to discover something about… sooner or later you're going to be up against it. Not up against anyone else, but you're going to be up against your diminished self, and you are indeed diminished. There's no question about that. This cold, isolated, empty place that you find yourself in and it's utter indifference to your well being and survival. So you're going to be up against your own self and you're going to be asking yourself some searching questions… why?, perhaps for the first time, the second time or the third time, you've gone to the extreme north. Why, and what is this holding for you? Before long, this diminished self is going to be asking another question… how? how exactly, as an artist, you're going to process the scale of this vast ephemeral and transient place, which is quite literally on occasion, taking your breath away, in more ways than one… and of course as the latitudes increase, the landmarks are thinning out and now you're even more diminished as that sense of familiar scale becomes a wreckage of the past and your own internal compass is in danger of spinning out in a blizzard of the mind.

So this is a challenge then, where just simply staying warm enough, in a sense that enables you to process the 'scene'… and I use that term in the loosest possible sense… enables you to think clearly about how to articulate this primary experience into visually coherent form. You're up against your own imagination as an artist, and only something that endeavours to go to the heart of the issue as you see it and witness it, will do. This is tough, to tackle the issue both personally and professionally. Here then now, in this place, surrounded by what maybe the last days of the permanently enduring ice, you've got to be honest with yourself. How to collapse scale into poignant form, bereft of visual cliche and transform it into something that extends beyond your own habits. Projected, inevitably through the prism of your own psychodrama, this seems to me important, a psychologising of form and space. Form that's restless, form constantly in flux, shifting between different states of being, airborne form that attempts to disrupt vision…the snow, the fog, the ice crystals, the constant blinding wind, the frozen solar haze… it can be a relentless scenic interference, a wipe out, and it's visually assertive. You've got to try and hang on to yourself here somehow… the clock's ticking and you've got to try and make sense of it all.

Julain icebergI see the icebergs of my own work as the manifestation of a death event. They often appear dark and melancholic, not by accident, but by specific intent, and I'll often hunt out this apparent visual contradiction. They are at once monumental, awesome and funereal, they lie prone subjected to the laws of entropy, or they contradict their mass by appearing to levitate in eerie and ghostly fata morgana. So I became interested in the mirage, the phantom berg, the notion that something somewhere has bent the light and wishes to exist where it is not.

The last thing I wanted was for this account to be a solely diaristic record, a dry commentary breaking down a journey and predetermined route stage by stage, the journey was so much more than that. So I return to the idea of time and space. The encounter with the pack ice during the circumnavigation of Spitzbergen was the standout highlight, a tonal world, the world rendered in greyscale. Spatially ambiguous and disorientating, seen under leaden skies and through a frozen fog. The experience of this spliced together perfectly with previous work, informed by similar residencies and experiences in Greenland. The sublime indifference of nature here was maximal and minimal all at one time… extremely painterly.

I hope that this short travelogue provides a kind of psychogeographic backdrop to the drawings, paintings and photography, seen as a psychodrama. On reflection, how could it be anything other than this, driven and underpinned as it is, by a unique wilderness, an extreme place requiring radical solutions and measures to render it visually. An attempt to find new ways to describe it. At least for now, the ice still exists and is still apparent, able to elicit a state of wonder, but this is also a region pervaded by a cultural history, staked out on the limits of human endurance. So many romantic preconceptions about the arctic as endlessly bleached and desolate are still prevalent today, yet these ideas seem a far distance from the modern reality. Many regions of the arctic are populated, just as Spitzbergen had been and will be again, as the scramble for onshore and offshore mineral wealth and resources is renewed and political ambitions pan out in the modern era. It is a region currently in a state of perpetual shift and a zone undergoing rapid changes, both glacially and at a human level. These 21st century transformations have no historical precedent. These are precarious, precipitous times.

Julian at seaI'm honoured and privileged to have been given this rare opportunity. I would like to say a huge thank you to the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute, One Ocean and Bonhams of London. For the above, my very deepest thanks are required. I hope that this residency can endure. Artists of different complexions, attempting to tease out meaning, to a place exponentially changing. Reshaping images of the contemporary high arctic are required, as the ecology, economy and indigenous societies are reshaped and transformed by what we are content to refer to as progressive development. Alongside and in conjunction with science, artists are ready to document, record and examine this future.

The sight of polar bears on the pack ice and the walrus haul-outs at Torrellneset and Smeerenberg were undeniably wonderful, powerful encounters, where I was able to spend a number of hours feeling visually and intellectually enriched and refreshed by the wildness, the absolute otherness of it all. I never imagined that I would see either of these animals in my lifetime. The arctic had got it hooks into me years ago. It has taken root… it's desolation, its impermanence, it's astronomical phenomena, it's mirages, the complexities of the ice, and its icebergs… it feels embedded and it will continue to occupy my practice as an artist for the foreseeable future.

The residency also brought me into contact with an astonishing range of people and no account of this residency would be complete without a mention of the onboard hours spent in their good company, more fulfilling than I could ever have hoped for.