Art of Antarctica: "Beyond Woop Woop"

August 29, 2017

Antarctica "It was so remote, so big and so beautiful that it swept over any fear you had.....It represented a reality stronger than oneself, and in a paradoxical way, one felt safe." Sidney Nolan 1964

Sidney Nolan Antarctica 1964 Oil on Hardboard 48 1/16 x 48 1/16 in

 

Contemporary Australian Irish artist John Kelly  took up the challenge of the ice and catabatic winds of Antarctica as an artist-in-residence in 2013. He recently exhibited his Antarctic series of paintings at Trinity College, University of Melbourne and is soon to publish his works under the title Beyond Woop Woop.  His expedition to the Antarctic took its toll on him both emotionally and physically but he recovered to produce some fifty-seven paintings and five essays for the Guardian, not unlike his famous predecessor Sidney Nolan.

 

John Kelly ice berg with copter Antarctica 2013

 

Kelly is one of the many Australian artists to to be lured to Antarctica under the auspices of an Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship, made possible by the Australian Antarctic Division in association with the Australian Network for Art & Technology.

 

John Kelly (iceberg) Antarctica 2013

 John Kelly (Friday Ramp berg) 25th October 2013 Antarctica

 

Prior to these fellowships, the first artist there was heroic photographer Frank Hurley on Mawson's (1911) and then Shackleton's treacherous expedition (1916). His carbon photographs in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria are exquisite and arresting and for those who have had the opportunity to see them, they leave a lasting and unforgettable impression. Susan van Wyk, NGV Curator of Photography, in 1999 wrote an essay for the NGV Journal (Ed. 40) entitled A turreted berg : an Antarctic photograph by Frank Hurley.  She quotes from his diaries.."No grander sight have I ever witnessed among the wonders of Antarctica. We threaded a way down lanes of vivid blue with shimmering walls of mammoth bergs rising like castles of jade on either side. Countless blue canals branched off and led through what appeared to be avenues of marble skyscrapers – dazzling white in the full sunshine. Waves had weathered out impressive portals and gigantic caverns in their gleaming sides, azure at the entrance and gradually fading into rich cobalt in their remote depths. Festoons of icicles sparkling like crystal pendants, draped ledges and arches."https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/essay/a-turreted-berg-an-antarctic-photograph-by-frank-hurley/

Frank Hurley No Title (turreted berg) 1913 Photograph H: 434 mm  W: 594 mm NGV Collection

Nel Law No Title Oil Painting 1961 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

 

Artist and poet Nel Law was the first Australian woman to visit Antarctica in 1960 - 61. She stowed away on her husband's ship when it berthed at Perth. When discovered she negotiated her passage (as artist) to avoid scandal for the government. Her work, some of which is in the University of Melbourne collection, is soon to be published.

 

Sidney Nolan visited in1964 with his friend and writer Frank Moorhouse. They traveled in style on an American ship and were conveyed to sights by helicopter. After a short stay of just eight days Nolan returned to London and produced some fifty three Antarctica paintings. Last exhibited at the Polar Museum Cambridge UK

Nolan’s Antarctic paintings were described as "some of his most spellbinding work." 

 

Sidney Nolan Antarctica 1964


Master print-makers the late Jörg Schmeisser (1998-2003 ) of Canberra and sculptor and printmaker Geoffrey Ricardo (2009) and painter Jan Senbergs (1987) of Melbourne have made their significant mark after their intrepid journeys.

 

Choreographer Tina Evans visited in 2010. She explores the dynamic movement and sounds of Antarctic ice in Polarity, a dance work for the city-scape and Body of Ice as a festival performance now on video.

 

Jörg Schmeisser I cannot read you II 2001. Gouache and watercolour 277 mm x 477 mm

Geoffrey Ricardo Melchior island iceberg 2009, Intaglio print, 44.5 x 59 cm, Edition 20 Australian Galleries

Geoffrey Ricardo Bark, Bark.. Clap Clap 2009, intaglio print; edition 20; 29.5 x 44 cm Australian Galleries

 

Jan Senbergs Platcha 1987 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 224.0 x 355.0 cm Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust Collection

Tina Evans Polarity Dance created for Melbourne Fringe Festival, Australia 2011 and Body of Ice for the Antarctic Arts and Culture International Festival Buenos Aires, Argentina 2011

see biophiliarts Videos

 

 

 

 Words: JOMO  2017

 

 

 

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