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Floating on Ice – Images of the Ross Ice Shelf

Floating on Ice – Craig Potton images of the Ross Ice Shelf


Island 2, Ross Sea
2002. Collection of the artist
Island 2, Ross Sea 2002. Collection of the artist

MEDIA RELEASE December 2006


Floating on Ice – Craig Potton images of the Ross Ice Shelf

Craig Potton’s love affair with the Antarctic is based on contradiction. He finds the landscape beautiful, but at the same time recognizes the threat this extreme environment poses to human existence.

The Nelson-based landscape photographer has twice travelled to the ice. He finds he is haunted by the beauty of the landscape, but also its vulnerability and that of those who visit such an inhospitable environment.

Potton’s last trip to the Antarctic was in 2000-01 and Floating on Ice, the exhibition opening at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu this Friday, 15 December, is inspired by his time spent on the Ross Ice Shelf.

Potton describes the Ross Ice Shelf as the “most extraordinary landscape I have ever been in”.

“It is the real sparseness of the landscape that attracts me. Sparse wilderness is something we don’t have in New Zealand. We have an incredible abundance of forests, mountains and coastline but we do not have that pared back environment where all that is left is the sky and land.”

He says the Antarctic is an environment where “there is just you and the great universe”.

“There is a great emptiness. If you look long enough at a really sparse environment you slip into an emptiness which can be an enjoyable place to be.”

Potton says there was an obvious lack of life on the Ross Ice Shelf: “it is like you are standing on a massive white dinner plate, a very clean one”.

“It is such a severe landscape; you do feel as though you are surviving rather than flourishing. There is a sense that death is pouring all over you. It is quite a scary place because you are so incredibly vulnerable. It is like you are at the limit of where humans should be trying to survive.”

He says these feelings can only be suggested by the Floating on Ice images. “There is an eeire feeling in the photographs; a lot of anxiety that is overshadowed by the sheer beauty of the landscape. You cannot completely comprehend the implied threat.”

“It is one of the of the largest untouched, unvisited wildernesses on earth, a place that for 30 years I have been involved in campaigns to preserve from mining, over-fishing its edges, over-zealous scientists and excessive tourism.”

Potton acknowledges that the human impact on the environment will be catastrophic. His greatest fear is that global warming will break up the Ross Ice Shelf – “it will be a grievous loss”.

His passion for the Antarctic is reflected in his desire to go back for a third time to complete a book on the Ross Ice Shelf – “it is a work unfinished”.

Floating on Ice is at Christchurch Art Gallery from 15 December 2006 to 9 April 2007.


ENDS

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