Blue Fragility - Art For a Clean Antarctica
Words and Art by: Veronika Podlasova
Throughout my childhood, I was terrified of water. But all that changed when I saw my first glacier - water in the state of ice is so powerful, yet extremely fragile.
Imagine the life of a snowflake. It fell out of the sky and landed in Antarctica. It joined many other snowflakes, and they began their wondrous transformation. The snowflakes became buried by other snowflakes and compressed until the air between them was pushed out and turned them into ice.
That is just the beginning of their journey from the Antarctic plateau toward the ocean. United with others, they form majestic ice streams, carving through the mountains until they ultimately feed into large ice shelves surrounding the continent. Then, suddenly they are separated from the rest of the ice shelf and they become an iceberg in the Southern Ocean. It is a long and arduous journey for one tiny snowflake at the South Pole to become an iceberg.
Snowflake to iceberg. Iceberg to the sea. The sea into the air. It's a cycle that has been going on for eons. Thanks to human activity, the speed of that cycle is changing.
I find myself continually returning to natural aspects of our planet and wanting to bring an awareness of global issues to people through art.
For the past five years, my work as an artist has focused on the connection between culture and nature, inner and outer. I find myself continually returning to natural aspects of our planet and wanting to bring an awareness of global issues to people through art.
The scientific context of the work is very important to me. I think that art and science are equal components of a true understanding of what it is to be human. Art is a key we can use to open the door of science, and through that door we are able to gain knowledge and take action.
I recently went to Antarctica with Trash Hero through the Czech Antarctic Research Program. I was one of six volunteers, and we collected nearly six tonnes of trash that had swept in from the ocean. Most of it was combustible waste, but we also separated 3.5 tons of rusty scrap, 200 kg of glass, and 250 kg of hazardous waste.
While I cleaned and cleared the substantial garbage and detritus off the beaches of Nelson Island, I felt the desire to document and to create. The resulting art pieces that I call “Blue Fragility" attempt to convey the disappearing beauty of Antarctica's continental glacier ice.
Art and science are equal components of a true understanding of what it is to be human. Art is a key we can use to open the door of science, and through that door we are able to gain knowledge and take action.
In this project, the viewer experiences the absence of ice through watercolours. These pieces focus on the melting of ice and the beauty of crystallized forms in glaciers - I am creating a memory of what is disappearing. Ultimately, I want it to educate, engage, and connect people to their surroundings so that their thoughts can turn into action.
Antarctica is a fabulous but extremely distant place for most of us, which makes it hard to realize how fundamentally important it is for the balance of the planet’s ecosystem. I hope my art conveys a message about how climate change is affecting the world we live in.
I collect sediment from around glacier valleys, which I use to create handmade paper that I draw the shape of the melting glacier on. Watercolours and mixed media are used for capturing the presence of the glacier’s movement, and I use blue pigment and ink for creating a map of these disappearing memories. I will often use circles in the structure to emulate the cycles of nature.