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Glacial Shift: Drawn to the Alps
recent prints and drawings by Emma Stibbon

13 November 2008 – 10 January 2009
See: Opening times for the exhibition and the Museum

Exhibition supported by

Arts Council logo

Emma Stibbon (b. 1962) studied for her Fine Art BA at Stibbon posterGoldsmiths, London. She has a Research MA in Fine Art Practice from the University of the West of England, Bristol where she currently lives and works. Stibbon is also Senior Lecturer on the Fine Art Printmaking BA at the University of Brighton.

Exhibiting both in the UK and internationally, Stibbon's work has recently been exhibited in solo shows in 'Retreat' at R O O M, London, in 'Antarctica' at upstairs berlin, Berlin and in 'Antarctica Drawings' at Rabley Drawing Centre, MIldenhall. Her work has been included in many selected exhibitions including the Victoria and Albert Museum's 'Spirit of Place', 'Raumwelten' at the Kunsthalle Arnstadt and Art Caucasus, Tblisi, Georgia. Her work is held in many private and public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.

Stibbon's work is a response to landscapes as sites of psychological imaginings and visual phenomena. In 2007, she set out to document the remains of summer Alpine glaciers in an extensive study. This research informs a new body of work, currently on show at the Scott Polar Research Institute. She has skilfully and delicately translated this extreme environment into a series of finely made drawings in white chalk and graphite on blackboard and black prepared paper and through a small animated film.

For this project Stibbon has worked with assistance from glaciologists, Dr Giles H. Brown, University of Bristol, and Dr Ian Willis, Scott Polar Research Institute, supported by her curator Dr Huw Lewis-Jones, Scott Polar Research Institute, upstairs berlin, Berlin, the University of Brighton, Grande Dixenne, Sandie Macrae, R O O M and Arts Council England.

Artist's Statement

"Location is a central concern in my practice. I often make my work in response to sites that are in some kind of dynamic flux or change: I am interested in landscapes that put a perspective on the viewer. In this exhibition my work is focused on the shifting ground of our environment. A recurring theme in my work is of the forces of nature, such as geologically changing or glacially eroded landscape. I am concerned with how the apparently monumental or permanent can be so fragile. Following a trip to Antarctica in 2005 I have been pre-occupied with landscapes formed by ice. Glaciers present us with an open space for imagination; they also face a precarious future.

Much of my work is derived through travel. In my practice I endeavour to engage with a location, either through drawing directly from observation or gathering information through the camera, archival or other found material. This research forms the basis for my studio practice. My interest in landscape and its histories has taken me to diverse locations, from local environments to the remote regions of Antarctica.

I am fascinated by glaciers as a visual phenomenon. As slow moving features in the landscape they also have the power to sculpt rock. I believe landscape can function on many levels, it can both bear the imprint of time and act as an insight for personal feeling and the subconscious. We ascribe memories and project emotions or desires onto our surroundings. In this project I would like the work to reflect on the dynamic and ephemeral nature of Alpine glaciers.

Drawing is central to my work. Whether recording place through direct observation, the lens of a camera or 'found' image, it is through the act of drawing that I make a connection with environment. In my engagement with a subject I try to emphasise both the physical and psychological experience of place. I often use unusual drawing media. Several drawings on display are made with white chalk on blackboard, a fragile drawing media that can be easily wiped away. I was looking for a process that would equate with the transient subject matter.

I have also made a sequence of aerial drawings, for this exhibition, based on photographs taken for glacier measurement comparison. I am interested in how we can see the cycle of ice movement from the air, from the ice field high up in the mountains to the meltwater in the valleys below. An aerial view also presents landscape as an abstraction.

The Alps have long been a focus of attention to both the scientific and artist communities. Recording has always been an important part of science and many expeditions augmented early scientific mapping methods by including an artist. Historic methods of recording and mapping by eye are now often replaced by new technologies, which capture information digitally and process this using mathematical models. Indeed, methods for remotely monitoring glacier dynamics, particularly using satellite technologies, has removed the need for scientists researching glacial retreat to visit the field, particularly in remote regions and where the scale of the landscape allows only a fragment to be seen by the observer. Whilst this data based scientific research gives critical evidence of how our planet is changing it is interesting to see how we may also perceive and visualise our environment in other ways.

The way we conceptualise and approach nature is ever-changing. Alpine glaciers appear to have an uncertain future, recent scientific research shows the glaciers in the Swiss Alps will have largely disappeared by 2050 and completely disappeared by 2100. I am interested in this shift in our perception of place; what we see now as a white peaks will soon be a much darker horizon."

For more information, see

'Retreat' animation

This is a sequence of stills from the short animation 'Retreat' (also available in full below).

retreat strip

Installation shots of 'Retreat' (animation stills), 2008

This montage installation was created using quick reproductions of Stibbon's sketches and stills; transient frames in the life cycle of a glacier, a pulse of growth and retreat animating the valley floor.

Montage Montage Montage