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Open Air and Air Conditioning: Antarctica through the Archive

Lookup NU author(s): Polly Gould


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Open Air and Air Conditioning: Antarctica through the Archive In this paper Gould talks about the archival encounter with the watercolours of the Antarctic explorer, Edward Wilson (1872-1912). In the watercolours and in his writing Wilson often noted the extraordinary colour effects in the atmosphere of the polar region in the long summer months of light and the dark of the winter season illuminated by the spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis. Gould discusses the open-air tradition or ‘en plein air’ and watercolours made in the direct observation of the landscape, while examining the challenges that Wilson faced with watercolour practice in sub zero conditions. Wilson was an avid reader of Ruskin’s writing on art and took a copy of his book Modern Painters on the second expedition to Antarctica in 1910-1913. In this book under the section ‘The Truth of Skies’ we see that for Ruskin it was not just a question of painting in the open air but also a question of how to paint a true and beautiful representation of the open air. In fact, it was not possible for Wilson to produce directly observed watercolours in Antarctica, and the artist’s own breath even become an impediment to drawing as the water vapour exhaled coated Wilson’s paper in an icy film through which the pencil would not mark. In contrast, the glassblower’s breath is employed by Gould to create the work which has informed Gould’s blown-glass globes and watercolour pieces on show as part of Air: Visualising the Invisible in British Art 1768-2017.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gould PE

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Unknown

Conference Name: Breath, Flight and Atmosphere: The Theme of Air in British Culture

Year of Conference: 2017