Sunderland artist returns from Arctic trip

Sunderland artist Chris Blade is back from the Arctic with stunning images from the icy landscape

Artist Chris Blade from the National Glass Centre on trip to the Arctic
Artist Chris Blade from the National Glass Centre on trip to the Arctic

Arctic traveller Chris Blade has returned to the North East after leaving his own special mark on the icy landscape.

Chris, based at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, was the only British man among an international group of 26 artists and writers on an expedition to the Arctic Circle.

His glass artist wife Katya Izabel Filmus, gave him a statue of a pregnant woman she had made to leave behind in the Arctic, and Chris decided to embed the statue in an iceberg.

By drilling a hole into the iceberg, inserting the sculpture, and then filling the hole with water, the statue was entombed and nature was left to take its course.

Chris, head of commissioning at the National Glass Centre, flew to Longyearbyen in Svalbard, Norway, before boarding a traditionally rigged tall ship for a three-week trip up the north west side of the archipelago.

The trip was as part of a collaborative project organised by the Arctic Circle Group, a New York based arts charity, and Chris was the only British representative.

He was one of 26 artists from 14 nationalities selected from an initial 320 applicants of painters, photographers, musicians, poets, writers, composers and videographers.

Chris got to work with his camera to capture the natural scenery.

He said: “I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I did know my project was going to be based on my reaction to the landscape and environment.

“It’s outstandingly beautiful and remote, and I don’t think you realise quite how so until you’re actually there.

“We had to be very conscious with the nature around us, and one polar bear did sniff us out, but thankfully we were back on the ship by this point.

“It was all an incredible experience, especially the scenery and how in a few places with a legacy of human habitation, the mining and whaling industries still affect the environment.”

In Magdalene fjord, fat spilled on to the ground from the boiling and processing of slaughtered whales 200 years ago now provides nutrients for a brilliant yellow lichen.

Chris said: “Most people have seen images of the Arctic, so have developed preconceptions of what it’s like.

“But when you actually get there and see it in front of you then the experiences of seeing, feeling and hearing it hits home as to just how remote, beautiful and hostile the Arctic really is.”

A photography exhibition of Chris’s work will be on display at the National Glass Centre next year and he is currently working on a series of glass works inspired by the trip.

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