Exhibition of artwork by
British Antarctic Survey scientists:
Professor Paul Rodhouse
As a scientist, I have made regular visits to the Antarctic, investigating the effects of fishing and climate change on the fragile Southern Ocean ecosystem. Working in such an environment is a great privilege, and I am driven not only by the scientific challenges but also by the overwhelming aesthetic appeal of Antarctica and the surrounding ocean. My artistic exploration is the mystery of icebergs, the play of light on ice and water, and the way colours in the ice develop an almost fluorescent quality when the sky is overcast and grey.
For a painter, the Antarctic is both a wonderful gift and an enormous challenge. The grandeur of the ice, mountains and stormy seas, the delicate colours, the striking light effects and the splendour of the wildlife provide endless inspiration for artistic expression. The intellectual challenge is to render the unusual shapes, colours and light effects of the land, sea and ice convincingly and evocatively. The practical challenge is to do this in a cold, windy environment, which is at times very dry and at others rather wet.
I feel strongly that the limited time I have when my ‘day job’ is done, is much better employed ‘exploring’ the environment from an artistic perspective. I paint scenes, light effects and colours in my head, sketching, making notes and collecting reference images with a digital camera. Sometimes I paint small works in acrylic on scraps of canvas and these are always fresh and exciting to me when I get them home. I rarely exhibit these small pictures, but they are the starting point for larger, more considered, works.
Back in my studio further thought processes go on as I re-run the paintings I have made in my head and then refer to my sketches, notes and digital images. I never start working on a canvas until I have thought through in some detail how I am going to approach a painting. Nevertheless all paintings take on a life of their own once the process has begun. I use mostly acrylic and oils, on canvas or board, which I prime with gesso to give texture.
I am particularly fascinated by light effects, and even though the Antarctic reveals in turn some of the most vivid and delicate atmospheric colours, I sometimes work in an almost monochromatic style.
Paul is a biological oceanographer at the British Antarctic Survey (Natural Environment Research Council). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org