In October 2016 Janette Kerr travelled to the High Arctic and spent three weeks on a tall ship sailing up the coast of Svalbard from Longyearbyen to Fuglefjorden.

The work represents initial responses to a thunder-grey and pale-blue world, encounters with icebergs and glaciers, watching drifting mist hanging in dark snow-strewn mountains, hearing glaciers calving and sailing through a sea of luminous ice.

'Thick ice radiates an ethereal blue, hovering between turquoise with hints of cobalt. Glacial ice becomes extremely dense over years of compression - squeezing, forcing out tiny air pockets between crystals. This dense ice absorbs a small amount of red light, leaving a bluish tint in reflected light. Blue is a sign of old age - I crouch down and look at the base of the glacier, here lie remnants from the last Ice Age. I think about the hundreds, even thousands of years locked away inside, suspended in tiny air bubbles. I think about how many years snow has fallen, compressing this enormous thick ice mass that is slowly flowing down the mountain valley, the sheer weight pulling with it the debris of earth and rock, sliding relentlessly to the sea.

Walking around ice lying on the shore, I hear the popping of air bubbles releasing ancient air into the atmosphere; it’s as though it’s breathing out. In my notes I write ‘I can’t put down what I’m seeing… it seems quite insane to be trying’.'

Janette Kerr is a painter of extreme landscape and sea. Her journey through the Arctic is charted here.


Ground Floor Gallery