Capturing a vanishing landscape: Artist sets sights on Arctic adventure

Issue date: 10 November 2015


Janette Kerr

A researcher from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) will be among the last people in the world to visually capture a disappearing landscape when she joins an Arctic expedition.

Artist Janette Kerr has been selected to participate in The Arctic Circle 2016, an annual series of art and science expeditions to the High Arctic.

The Royal West of England Academy President, known for her foul weather paintings, will document the ice sheets and glaciers while aboard the tall ship SV Antigua with 19 other international innovators, explorers and artists.

To raise the £5,000 needed to cover the cost of the once-in-a-lifetime trip, the painter is selling up to 50 of her works at substantially discounted prices.

This is a fantastic chance for art lovers to own a “Janette Kerr” original for a bargain price while supporting her expedition.

Dr Kerr said: “This is an absolutely amazing opportunity; my intention is to make a body of work reflecting the immersive experience of observing a changing Arctic landscape during the three-week expedition next October.

“Time spent in the Arctic region will be used to make my own 'observations' of a journey; to document ice sheets and glaciers, and respond to the sheer expanse and sublimity of a fragile environment as we travel through the landscape.

“These 'observations' of the Svalbard region will be documented almost as a captain's log book might, by writing, mapping, drawing, painting, and filming traces of movement and change, as well as responding to methodology and equipment employed to measure/record data by scientists working alongside me.”

For the last few years Dr Kerr has been studying the sea, recording the movement of water and light against rock and weeds to form the basis of a series of drawings and paintings.

She said: “This project may continue to develop whilst in the Arctic - looking into ice and sea, working with colour transmitted in ice crystals, and to experiment by making and freezing colour mixed with seawater and snow-water, melted onto paper to create images similar to those achieved by dipping litmus paper into substances.

“I want to incorporate materials found on site - ice, earth, ash, dust, sea water - with materials brought with me - graphite, watercolour, charcoal, chalks, ink, marble dust, film, paper and gampi tissue.”

Dr Kerr also plans to launch small balloons or kites holding cameras from locations in the Arctic to take aerial footage of the changing landscape, and to pay homage to Salomon August Andrée, an explorer who died while leading an attempt to reach the Geographic North Pole by hydrogen balloon in 1897.

She said: “He failed, owing to the unpredictability of the weather and extreme conditions, and was not found for 30 years. He left records of his extraordinary attempt, documenting weather, topography and wildlife.”

Dr Kerr, who is seeking advice from UWE aeronautics and meteorological experts about the feasibility of launching the balloons, wants to incorporate the aerial footage and images collected into drawings and paintings.

The fundraising paintings – which have been created on the Shetland Islands and depict the seas surrounding them - will cost between £40 and £60. They are available on Dr Kerr's blog.

Dr Kerr is a visiting research fellow in fine art at UWE's Centre for Moving Image Research. She exhibits regularly in the UK and has work in private and public collections, both nationally and internationally.

Artist and scientist-led, The Arctic Circle is an annual expeditionary residency programme. It brings together artists of all disciplines, scientists, architects, and educators who collectively explore remote and fascinating destinations aboard a specially outfitted sailing vessel.

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