It is a memorable expereince to walk across the Solheimajokull Glacier in South East of Iceland. Situated close to Eyjafjallajokull the volcano which erupted several years ago, the glacier is made up of layers of ice and ash. Solheimjokull is just a small part of a bigger glacier the Myrdalsjokull. This forms an ice cap over another volcano, the mighty Katla. If this erupts we all need to worry!
However for now the landscape is quiet. Evidence of the retreating ice is apparent on your approach to the start of the walk. The valley is covered with ash, pumice, sand and stone, giving a muted colour to the whole terrain. However green mosses creep over the ground providing a fabulous contrast to the greys. Here and there grasses begin to emerge trying to get a foot hold in a harsh enviroment. The glacier has retreated about a kilometer in the last decade. It is about 250 metres thick rising to 700 meters at the top. Our guide informed us that winter snowfalls have reduced and aproximately two metres has melted from the top since March.
As you approach the glacier these glorious colours are combined with the blues and white of the ice sheet. It is a feast for the eyes. The marks created by layers of ash and snow appear like a huge art installation - drawing on a large scale. I recall all those mark making exercises from college years ago. The ice is full of ridges, amazing scarry sinkholes, and rivers which cut across the ice.
Black lines, etched across large areas, contrast with crystal clear blue holes. The blue is created where the ice is more compact and dense.
It would be difficult to retrace your footsteps. What we see and experince today will be different tomorrow. This is a dynamic and constantly changing landscape - to walk on a glacier is a unforgettable unique experience.
Silent Spring, - An Altered Book
I recently read Rachel Carson's ground breaking book Silent Spring. Controversial when first published in the 1960's it has gone on to become a classic. Rachel Carson , a marine biologist, spoke out about the use of agricultural pesticides and chemicals, and the consequences of indescriminate spraying. This was having a severe and in some cases devastating impact on wildlife and on humans. Her courage in speaking out inspired a grassroots enviromental movement that led to the creation of the US Enviromental Protection Agency. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national policy, and led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides.
It is striking how relevant her arguments remain today. Having finished the book I wanted to create a piece of work using her words. Staying with the book and altering it by a combination of folding and cutting, the book has become a sculptural piece. Random sentences stand forth from the main body of the text, highlighting various aspects of her argument and concerns. The silhouette of a crow rises from the centre of the book block. The crow represents death, but also becomes a symbol of life, of survival, saved by Carson's words. We all owe Rachel Carson a debt of gratitude.
Following Turn the Page Book Fair in May, The Norwich Writers Centre invited Book Artists to make a response to six newly published books.
My submission is a response to a short story by one of my favourite authors, Jon McGregor. It is a story called If it Keeps on Raining from his latest book This Isn' the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You. As one reviewer Sarah Hall so aptly states "He has the ability to disturb the surface of everyday things, painfully authentic, inquisitive rather than confrontational".
His prose is superb. This is the story of a man who lives on the outskirts of a village in the Fenlands of East Anglia. He spends hours watching the sky each morning, and believes there will be a flood. He ponders on the busy pace of daily life and considers what he thinks is important. We are left wondering if he is a wise man,- thoughtful and philosophical, or just an eccentric outsider. Perhaps both.
My book consists of a double concertina fold. I wanted to capture the dark brooding mood of a storm gathering above a wide flat horizon. Some of Jon McGregors words have been incorporated into the book, which is enclosed within a separate cover.
The exhibition is now open and continues during August, and can be seen at the Forum, Norwich Library.
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has recently installed a piece of the Vatnajokull Glacier in a gallery at the Museum of Modern Art. He believes most people are disconnected tfrom the effects pf climate change, and seeks to raise awareness by bringing a piece of Iceland to New York.
Sadly I am unable to visit the exhibit, however Rena Silverman's description allows me to imagine the exhibit.
"Entering the gallery is an awe inspiring expereince. (This is true in the heat of the summer). You are in the middle of a white frigid room, surrounded by several glaciers scattered around, seemingly at random. Each glacier has it's own tint, shape, and character. Some rhombic and upright, like stingrays. Colours range from pale blue to clear"
Eliasson states "These glaciers bear testimony to our history - being suspended and frozen for thousands of years and now they are melting away, as if our whole history is fading" Some pieces of are thought to be about 800 hundred years old"
He is known for creating work in which the viewer experinces being immersed in the art work. These are usually large scale sculptures and installations using elemental materials such as light, water and air tempretures to enhance the viewers expereince.
At the end of the exhibition in September,the glaciers "will do what they would have done withoput the exhibition weeks ago" states Eliasson, and will slowly dissolve.