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Flood Cycle: Visual Impressions of Changing Planet
Artwork by John Kelly

25 February - 4 April 2009Kelly poster
See: Opening times for the exhibition and the Museum

As climate change and the prospect of relentlessly rising sea levels threaten communities around the world, artist John Kelly records this process in words and images. From the high altiplano of Bolivia, through Newfoundland, the Arctic regions of Alaska and Svalbard, to the Baltic and Orkney, he evokes the dramatic natural transformations affecting our planet and their impact on people and landscapes.

Kelly is an internationally-renowned artist and writer, whose work includes photography, drawing and the use of objects. He is most well-known for his 'forensic' installations and for Due South, an exhibition which showed at the Natural History Museum, London in 2004 before touring to many other locations in Britain.

Arts Council England logoFor this project Kelly has worked with assistance from the British Antarctic Survey, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, and his curator Dr Huw Lewis-Jones, Scott Polar Research Institute, among many others. He has been generously supported by Arts Council England. Future exhibitions include the Cheltenham Art Gallery in 2009 and the Manchester Museum in 2010.

Artist's Statement

"Since the exhibitions on landscape interpretation during the 1990's, my preoccupation with the wilderness as a sublime experience has taken me to some of the most remote regions of the planet. It is within the distant polar regions that the work has crystalized into a regime of 'process' and 'analysis', where the notion of landscape and our place within it has been carried forward.

The Flood Cycle project has documented climate change. During the period of 2006-2008 travels to a number of Arctic locations have provided me with a picture of ice retreat and extraordinary summer temperatures. From the vast tundra waste of Alaska to the disappearing glaciers of Svalbard the evidence of global warming is clear.

John KellyThe work produced represents a combination of visual observation and scientific input. The research from the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium and that of the Ny-Alesund base in Svalbard provide the background to this exhibition as well as the work of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change. Other journeys within the Baltic, Newfoundland and the Bolivian Andes have provided further indications of the global changes taking place. The Flood Cycle project can be seen as a further development on the theme of landscape, that formed the basis of my project Due South: Art from Antarctica.

The tenor of the work has changed. Held within the process of assimilation and growth, I linger in that moment of inspiration. In this working method the work is never finished in the sense of some final state. The art mirrors the journeys taken to those remote places: in all aspects it is about the journey and the force of movement, rather than arrival at a fixed point or a journey's end.

With this commitment to the process of art it is possible to enter into those thought sequences that I believe are central to my own particular creative practises. The nature of this shared experience was seen specifically in the work produced within Antarctica. In this work I was able to place the viewer into a polar existence and working environment that presented an impression of life in Antarctica, rather than providing a finished framed statement. In this approach there is no finished state. The work does not end. I bFlood Cycle book coverelieve that this holds an energy. Working drawings effectively capture thought in its essence.

The Flood Cycle project has increasingly focused on these moments in time, where snapshots of a changing world have been absorbed into a drawn image, a written word, or both. The response is translated by that which is most appropriate to hand: no overriding technique is allowed to block this line of thought or sully the clarity of that moment."

Note: A new publication, Flood Cycle: Notes from a Changing Planet, accompanies this exhibition. It is available for sale in the SPRI shop, or online at