My hometown Melbourne has lured me back once again. It is spring and the traditional four seasons in one day type of weather has me a tad confused about what to wear. Preparations are underway for my UNMAPPING exhibition at William Mora Gallery in Richmond. Before the formal opening on the 20th November a small preview is planned for the dozen Antarctic patrons that have helped me over the past few years in an variety of ways. Antarctic homebrew beer will flow that evening while on another night at the LOOP bar in central Melbourne those interested can watch the rough footage of the Antarctic documentary that Matthew Rooke filmed last summer. Tony Press the director of the Australian Antarctic Division will open the major show and formally present the large scale works which were begun in the Davis station Helipad studio some months ago in East Antarctica. All are welcome.
Photo: Min SimanKeVicius
I have been offered a studio residency in Taipei, Taiwan for three months next year so it will not be very long before I pack the bags and head off once again, this time northwards.The Australia China Council studio in the rather new Taipei Artists Village will be my next base. Packing is in fact the working title of the painting I am currently battling with. New Travailogue works on bandage are also appearing in the current Melbourne studio. These works will possibly travel with me early next year where I hope to reconnect with many faces and places in Asia.
This month I find myself in a charming guest room underneath a house on stilts. I am in Brisbane for an exhibition at Bellas Gallery which opens on the 23rd September and runs until the 11th October. My three-month studio residency stint at the Gunnery/Artspace complex in Sydney ended a few weeks ago so northwards I have moved. As hoped I completed the large body of paintings I began some time ago in the Davis station studio. Now totally thawed out from that Antarctic summer it surely is time to frolic on a warm beach.
First I must prepare for this exhibition entitled TRAVAILOGUE which like all my exhibitions is in fact a distorted travelogue. The word travel is derived from travail meaning a bodily or mentally laborious effort. Travelogue of course is a monologue often accompanied by images of ones journey. Travailogue therefore plays with my travel addiction and acknowledges the unpleasant aspects of moving about the planet. As someone who has chosen a nomadic lifestyle I have met hundreds of uprooted people who have shown me the nasty elements of migration and dislocation.
Compared to the plight of refugees my travails are rather pathetic. Gluttony for kilometres and new experiences, a taste for anonymity, boredom with stability and a dis-taste for possessions fuel my travels. Wanderlust keeps me on tour not survival. In the animal world to stray from ones home terrain is suicide but in my world the risks and dangers of strange lands is assimilated into the paintings along with the positive experiences of my self inflicted dislocation.
The 200 small works to be exhibited have been made over the past two years while wandering about Australia, Asia and Antarctica. I have used bandage as a support for all these works. This fabric to me with its function of helping to repair the body hints at the travail of travel. Hopes of healing damage are also wrapt up in this material. Many people see art itself as a mild form of medicine.
This Travailogue theme will grow as it accompanies me on future travels so a Travailogue 2 exhibition is already being planned. I am not sure which location it will be shown but will definitely let you know when I get there.
I find myself one month into a three month residential studio stint here at the excellent Gunnery Studio complex in Woolloomooloo Sydney. A dozen large paintings were begun last summer in the Antarctic studio at Davis station and here I hope to complete them surrounded by this vibrant city rather than a rocky outcrop and a massive icecap. All goes well in the studio but I unfortunately have not managed to use much of Sydney which is a fine city. It is winter here which means it is sunny and not very cold at all! Most of June was +20 C with beautiful dry days.
I prepare for exhibitions in Brisbane (September) and Melbourne (November) as well as a small group show on a Russian icebreaker somewhere in the icy Southern Ocean at the end of the year. It looks like I shall be located on the east coast of Australia for 2003 which I cannot complain about at all.
Each evening at dusk I watch thousands of fruit bats fly over the nearby park simultaneously I hear a few emergency sirens rushing to the aid of someone in need. It's a busy excitable city of over four million people so someone is often in trouble...to balance this thought, you can always find someone else gushing joy and celebrating life occasionally with a lychee, vodka and basil cocktail in their hands.
Returning to reality is still the feeling I have even after being back in Australia for over a month now. The first few weeks were spent in Hobart acclimatising to moisture in the form of rain and humidity. To see and smell vegetation again was also an odd treat. A temporary studio was set up in 'the Chalet' located in a Hobart back garden bungalow. There I sorted slides, photos, artwork and thoughts as well as speaking as a visiting artist at the Tasmanian University Art schools weekly forum. Hobart's small but active art world was a pleasure to explore as I thawed out from my four months in the Antarctic region.
A flight to Melbourne landed me back with family and friends but as usual I am busy being here as well as preparing to exit. The Gunnery studio awaits me in Sydney.
I have just been informed by the station leader at Davis station that the four small outdoor sculptures I planted on the outskirts of the station have been officially accepted by the Australian Antarctic Division as a sculpture garden. Probably the first of its kind on the entire continent. My hope is that future expeditioners will add self made works to the garden as an ongoing project. This will precariously tack visual culture onto this wind-blasted human outpost in East Antarctica. If anyone is keen to visit the sculpture garden is located at....
68. 34 deg. south 77. 58 deg. east.
The last month at Davis station saw me constructing a small sculpture garden overlooking the Bay. I planted three 'headhome' works to compliment a mysterious carved wooden pole already on site that sadly looked northward.
The final summer event was a 120 km helicopter trip over to the Chinese Zhong Shan station and the Russian Progress Two station. We flew over six gorgeous glaciers and were treated with steamed dumplings, vodka and plenty of hospitality. It was a brilliant Antarctic summer day with views of the shimmering sterile white void. I bowed with respect to the icecap's beauty or was I just nodding off due to the excellent vodka?
Early on Sunday morning I was plucked from Davis station and allocated a berth on the Aurora Australis as it was time to move. First stop was the spectacular Mawson station where we picked up the summerers and waved farewell to Antarctica via a man dressed as a yellow flower. Now it's the long voyage back to Australia. Onboard this icebreaker sleeping, eating, reading, watching videos, emergency muster drills, writing and drawing keep me busy. The Southern Ocean is looking large deep and dark, currently we are 3810 km away from Hobart and the sea is being rather pleasant.
As the last Iceberg floated out of view I knew that my most unusual and coldest summer had ended. It has been a productive, inspiring and special season in and around my cosy heli-pad studio but now I have many large paintings to complete, exhibitions to arrange, family and friends to see and a studio awaiting me in Sydney. If possible I would have stayed at Davis station for the southern winter. Obviously I did not get enough astonishing beauty, delirious blizzards, chilling silence nor outlandish views. I was very much intoxicated by this exotically frigid continent. Strong, abundant and addictive experiences I take away with me to translate into paintings.
Quality dislocation with lashings of alien beauty made Antarctica almost a home away from home. That is if I did have a home and wanted to indulge in a second one. This is highly unlikely as my travel bug once again moves me rapidly over the sea to everysomewherever. . .
More information regarding my time in Antarctica can be found on - www.abc.net.au/arts/visual.
Last week in the studio 60-knot winds (149 kph) swayed the building as I worked on the small Travailogue paintings. The wind screamed, the hut groaned, squeaked and shuddered. I felt like I was in a moving train carriage on my way to some where ever but was actually only rocking a centimetre or two in all directions. Katabatic winds down here can be three times this velocity so the old Antarctic hands said it was simply "a bit blowy". The past weeks have been brilliant weather wise and basically all good. Field trips out to Brookes hut, Bandits hut and some zodiac boating trips out to Prydz Bay to perv at bergs have all been visually stunning experiences. The summer season now begins to 'wind' down as the Polar Bird ship has arrived and will soon whisk away one third of the people on station. Twilight has also arrived after weeks of daylight so a full-blown nighttime must be less than a month away now.
On the 31st January I exhibited some of my work in the ANARE satellite dome building. Almost the entire base population of eighty folks turned up dressed in dinner suits, overalls or Antarctic foul weather gear. A number of scientists and support crew who recently returned from a major ten week German/Australian expedition to the Prince Charles Mountain region also made it to the opening.
The exhibition title was SITREP referring to the situation reports that are simple codes used by field parties to inform the base via radio as to what is going on. My exhibition did just that, displayed to all on base what I have been up to over the summer in the heli-pad studio.
The next few weeks remaining for me on the Base will be spent finishing work, sorting ideas and perhaps another field trip to the icecap.
Much has been experienced down here in this pretty and brutal place and many fantastic people I have got to know so the changeover from summer to winter means strong farewells and fluffy thoughts for some about returning to "home in the real world." My real world is looking like indecipherable longitude and latitude coordinates scrawled on a box of travel sickness pills, stuffed into a dirty bag with thermal underwear and a pair of thongs. I am still rather shy of any form of geographical stability so I shall navigate along this anti-domestic route until the next update.
Recently returned from a field trip to Platcha Hut which sits by the Ice plateau on the eastern finger of Long Fjord. A week of strolling about the rocky Vestfold Hills was a productive time. Beautiful lakes both frozen and hyper saline tarns that refuse to freeze were sketched and walked over, excursions about the edge of the icecap, trips over the frozen fjord with instep crampons and ice axes all keep us busy and mesmerized. Fine Antarctic summer weather made it all the more brilliant. Drawing and absorbing the landscape was my task with a small new years eve celebration thrown into the weeks activities to ward off the possible hut fever madness.
Sitting on a black dolorite volcanic rock one sunny but windy afternoon watching the ice plateau shimmer like titanium metal was as relaxing as sun baking on a tropical island beach. The dress code was rather different and the refreshing sea breeze was replaced with painful gusts flung directly off the icecap which looked like a frozen ocean. It pleased me somehow to be weathered by this deadly wind on my face and exposed to a gorgeous icy glare. All too strange and grand.
Now back in the Heli-pad studio working on the smaller paintings. Building, sorting and preparing the larger works on linen. Much of the sea ice has melted in the bay so we were able yesterday to make a Zodiac boat trip out to Iceberg Alley where we hunted for a jade berg amongst the thousands of huge white gems floating about in the dark Antarctic sea.
© Stephen Eastaugh, 2019. All Rights Reserved.