Simon Faithfull has developed a practice largely based on observation using palm-pilot drawings as well as video works, where the processes involved impose themselves on the spectator as much as Faithfull’s careful choice of subjects. The latter provide a record of what the artist has witnessed, from his life in London and Berlin, to specific projects in various locations, with a diversity of subject matter ranging from the Dreamland series, for example, which documents the funfair at Margate in England, to the emptiness of the Antarctic- the subject of the present exhibition.
The Ice Blink project is the result of Simon Faithfull’s “residency”, in which he accompanied the British Antarctic Survey, a long established British government project that takes scientists to the extreme remoteness of an Antarctic research station. The term Ice Blink refers to a meteorological phenomenon where a white glare in the clouds warns of the presence of invisible ice at sea, and this choice of title parallels Faithfull’s honed ability to identify and exploit the often bizarre particularities of the subjects he chooses. As such, the Antarctic proves a perfect subject for Simon Faithfull, from the sparsity of features placed on the blank white canvas of the ice floes, (lending themselves to the observational economy of palm-pilot drawings), to the inherent incongruity of man’s presence in this inhospitable desert with its unreal, even absurd parameters of scale, time and space.
During the expedition, from a military flight to the Falklands Islands, the onward sea voyage and the artist’s stay at the curious research station on stilts, Faithfull’s daily drawings, (subsequently laser-etched on vinyl), document the minimalism of both human and animal presence in the face of the overwhelming dominance of the elements, and the landscape. Intrigued by the strangely post-colonial Britishness of this place so far from anywhere, Simon Faithfull’s project examines multiple facets of the Antarctic, from its mythologies and historical vestiges, to the current effects of global warming. Ships, icebergs, penguins and minefields become the subjects of his drawings- emailed to subscribers on a daily basis, and complemented by film works and on-site experiments with weather balloons, ubiquitous ice, and scientific equipment.
The extraordinary body of work that makes up Ice Blink will be visible at Parker’s Box, and concurrently at Stills Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Cell, London. A book: Ice Blink: An Antarctic Essay, published by Book Works and Arts Catalyst (UK) will be available in April.