‘We did indeed stare across the momentous divide and over the unsampled secrets of an elder and utterly alien earth…One had to be careful of one’s imagination in the lee of those overshadowing mountains of madness.’¹ 

A recent trip to Antarctica (January 2007) has informed my current practice resulting in paintings that are black and white, tonal studies of icebergs. These prehistoric forms dominate the picture space. Gloomy and isolated, they are not depicted within a landscape genre but as individual portraits or a still life  – one that is severe and observational. Like Rembrandt’s ‘Slaughtered Ox’ (1655) and Goya’s ‘Dog’ (1820-23), the shapes float in a void where ‘the light is grim, space is unreal, objects often appear transparent, intangible…(and where) there is no rationalizing narrative’.²

These sombre figures are ambiguous and unresolved – some resemble teeth and bones, others take on human or mask-like attributes. In order to make sense of these forms it is hard to resist the desire to compare them with shapes from a known environment. But these icebergs are not familiar. Their essential black and whiteness lends an ominous funereal strangeness, or a starkness that invokes the idea of a threatened existence. However, if these sculpturally surreal forms suggest an ‘end of the world’ perception, it is as much a geographical as well as metaphysical observation.

Robyn Base 2007.

¹Lovecraft, H.P. ‘At The Mountains of Madness’, 1931
²Collings Matthew, ‘This Is Modern Art’, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1999, page 100