Art is a very important part of our society. It has the power to unite people from different backgrounds, to educate those who do not want to be educated and to inspire the others. Most of us know the feeling of being moved by a work of art, whether it is a song, a novel or a painting. That is why I became an artist – an explorer of my own senses. I became addicted to art, similar to being addicted to chocolate. Once you dare to rip the aluminum foil, you must finish the chocolate bloc to its very last crumb. To me, chasing ice is like my most favorite type of chocolate, and I have just torn the foil… but let me tell you a story…
Once upon a time there was a snowflake. It fell out of the sky and landed in Antarctica. It joined many many other snowflakes and they began their wondrous transformation. The snowflakes became buried by other snowflakes, and compressed, until the air between them was pushed out and turned the snowflake to ice. It is now, that they begin their fantastic journey from the the Antarctic plateau towards the ocean. They unite with others and form majestic ice streams, carving deep glaciers through the mountains, until they ultimately feed into large ice shelves surrounding the continent. But then, an abrupt crack across the ice shelf separates them from the ice shelf and they drift far away from their friends as an ice berg in the Southern Ocean. It can be a long journey from being a little snowflake on the South Pole, to a melting ice berg in the ocean. It can easily take hundreds of thousands of years.
How special would it be to chase a snowflake and to see the beauty of nature along its wonderful journey. Who was the first artist chasing snowflakes, like a scientist trying to catch butterflies ? And why would this be an important part of any expedition to the South Pole ?
It was in 1901 when the curious Edward Wilson first stepped his foot in Antarctica. He joined Scott’s first polar expedition and was as surgeon and zoologist an important member of the British National Antarctic Expedition. Wilson was in love with nature, and as a self taught artist he was illustrating the wildlife as he saw it. His detailed illustrations were later published in popular books, so that many others would see Antarctica through his eyes. He was the first to raise Antarctica’s voice visually, and thanks to him, ordinary people could learn about a place that so few humans have ever visited. Even today, we can not only see his work in the museum of the Scott Polar Research Institute, but also admire his paintings in the Wilson Cheltenham Art Gallery. Since his pioneering work, many other artists have traveled to Antarctica and explored its wonders in their own particular way.
Artists like Olafur Eliasson, Chris Drury or the inspiring Annie Brodie give contemporary polar art its shape. For example, ice-blocs from the polar regions were left to their destiny in the city centre of Paris (where the international community agreed to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius). A message how climate change is changing our world. People were moved, hopefully not only emotionally…
Last but not least there is me. I am an artist who is chasing today’s ice bergs. My work is focused on the connection between the natural world and our culture. I find myself continually returning to all aspects of planet Earth and want to use my art as a tool to make people aware of global issues. For my current project, Blue Fragility, I have collected glacier dust from remote valleys in Iceland, Svalbard, Norway and New Zealand as an ingredient for my self-made canvas. I am very lucky to also cooperate with Czech Antarctic Research, providing me with water samples from the South Pole that I use for watercolor paintings. I am convinced that art is the key to unlock the door of science for everyone and that this will help us to take climate action, actively. Art and science are two equal concepts of a full understanding of what it means to be human. My name is Veronika ‘Gibi’ Podlasova – and I am human.
“Ice bergs are like people. They each tell their own story and are shaped by the environment. Think about how fragile they are now…”