Timed to coincide with the centenary of Gallipoli, Ian North’s East Antarctica 1915 incorporates his interest in maritime imagery and Antarctica.
Looking back over Ian North’s oeuvre, he has depicted vastly different landscapes, both urban and rural, and in his latest exhibition, East Antarctica 1915 at Greenaway Gallery, he portrays the unrivalled landscape of Antarctica. While many of North’s images share a faint hint of romanticism and a telling sky, North finds it difficult to explain what connects them. “It’s very hard to pin down and I hesitate to even try,” North says. “I feel like I don’t so much take photographs as they take me. They grab me and tell me when to take them.” In the past, he has worked exclusively with painting (Sail Away), photography (Canberra series) and both (Pseudo Panorama). “During the 80s, I became very interested in playing mediums against each other,” he says. “I was also very interested in playing with colour photographs with colour paint on them, which is very unusual.” Timed to coincide with the centenary of Gallipoli, East Antarctica 1915 incorporates his interest in maritime imagery and Antarctica. It consists of 12 images taken when North travelled to Antarctica in 2012 on a voyage commemorating Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctica Expedition. “Antarctica is amazing; the cliché is, which I have heard a few times, it’s the closest thing you can go on this planet to another planet without leaving this one,” he says. The landscape images, except one which has been left untouched, combine mediums – prints of East Antarctica have images of World War I drawn onto them using charcoal sticks, the most basic drawing medium. “I wanted to create drawn elements which both integrated with the works and yet were quite distinctively apart from the photographic ground as it were,” he says. “So some of the ships I have drawn are quite transparent.” Antarctica has long fascinated North and, in fact, he made a series in 1992 called Home and Away which put Frank Hurley’s famous photograph of an iceberg (A turreted berg, 1913) alongside a number of images by J Dixon- Scott (from a book he found in a junk shop) of pictorial-style English bucolic scenes. “The work suggests that in a way Australia is between the two, Antarctica and England,” he says. “Also that no part of the world is completely safe from the depredations of humans, without being too heavy-handed about it, I hope.” In East Antarctica 1915, North is creating a connection between Antarctica and World War I – the heroic exploration of Antarctica and World War I occurred at the same time. “It occurred to me that without stretching things too far one could conflate the two. It’s a fantastical notion… I’m interested in the underlying rivalries and parallels between exploration and warfare,” he explains. “In a way you could say the muchvaunted purity of the ice is in fact when you look into it, arguably compromised by blood and soil.” Ian North: East Antarctica Greenaway Art Gallery Wednesday, April 1 to Sunday, April 26 greenaway.com.au