Antarctica: Layers of Time, Beautiful Monsters

– Hugh Conacher

The Antarctic has extraordinary luminosity. Its scale is incomprehensible. Time stands still. In its current form, the exhibition consists of sixteen photographic images, designed to be shown as diptychs. Each diptych requires six and a half feet of wall space and ideally there’s around two feet between each. They are exhibited linearly fashion the total wall space is approximately sixty-eight running feet. It can expand or contract to suit the venue. Unfortunately nowadays many people see photography on a small screen via the Internet. The opportunity to see images in a form that allows the viewer to really consider their content is rare. Viewers can spend time with each image to closely examine its detail and step away to consider the whole and then step in again.

The Arctic and Antarctic are preeminent teachers of the play of light and sculptural form. The artist experiences and learns from a range of light-related phenomena, weather and form in the Polar Regions. It is an experience not seen anywhere else in the world. The complex refraction of light through icebergs and ice blisters, the vastness of ancient ice fields that produce feelings of the diminutiveness of human life and of the sublime. The environment is not simply a setting, not simply the lights and set for the main action; it is the primary drama – the visual storyteller.

In the three weeks the artist spent in the Antarctic, Hugh captured over 10,000 images of mountains and ice and animals and rust. Although the editing process was ongoing, it wasn’t until he returned home that he fully realized what he had experienced. The luminosity of this mountainous environment is extraordinary – light behaves differently there. Colours are more intense than imagined and the natural environment appears to be monochromatic.