Glacier in Alaska: Abrogation

Glacier in Alaska: Abrogation

Title: Glacier in Alaska: Abrogation

Year: 2019
Size: 810mm × 600mm (P25)
Media: Oil on canvas


Over many, many thousands of years two immensely powerful forces have crafted and sculpted the planet on which we live – fire and ice.

Fire in the form of volcanoes.

Ice in the form of glaciers.

Slowly and relentlessly grinding its way downwards towards the ocean and encapsulating fragments of rocks along the way, the glacier captures its own memories.

Each gaping crevice, and ever-shifting shape, telling its own story of what has gone before.

“If you see the world as beautiful, thrilling and mysterious, as I think I do, then you feel quite alive.” David Hockney

During a two-week cruise of Alaska, I was inspired by the rugged features of the terrain, the sheer scale and silent force of nature expressed by the sea, the mountains, and most of all the majestic glaciers.
Observing this from different perspectives, from the land, the sea, and even from the sky (courtesy of a local helicopter) I captured this in a series of 6 canvases, of which this is one.

Whilst seeing, admiring, and recording these impressive images I am struck by our inability to truly capture all the emotions one feels in the face of such multisensorial intensity.

To quote from an essay by Nancy Lord:

“Words and pictures are small, distant, antiseptic; the thing that is not the real thing lacks the cold air, the deep rumble, runoff rubbing on stone, birdsong. You cannot turn your head. You cannot lick the ice. You miss the whole sky, the waterfall just out of the picture, the concealed seal drawing a vee across still water.”

“The work of art must seize upon you, wrap you up in itself, carry you away. It is the means by which the artist conveys his passion; it is the current which he puts forth which sweeps you along in his passion” – Pierre Auguste Renoir.

Drawing on the tradition of Romantic or neo-Romantic landscape art, I sought to capture as best I could, my emotional reaction and quasi-magical feelings from this precious moment.

Using a simplification of form, and a limited palette of bold colours: red, white, and blue, somewhat in the style of the landscape works of Katsushika Hokusai, to emphasize the central presence and immensity of the glacier.

Echoes of the incessant noise of the glacier calving as it moves relentlessly forwards, whilst also sounding its slow retreat in the face of global warming,

Glaciers are Weeping – Anonymous 2017

“For thousands of years, ice giants were sleeping.

But now, these dense “blue ice” glaciers are weeping.

Warnings that in many ways bear repeating

Global climate change speeds glaciers’ retreating

In Alaska and Glacier National Park,

The melting of ancient glacial ice is stark,

Half the world’s glaciers – in Land of Midnight Sun

But in Glacier National Park, soon there will be none

Years hence, will Alaska have any at all?

Loss of these ice bodies a clear wakeup call

Value majestic, Alaska like Seward?

Care for glaciers; each of us a good steward?

Alaska’s Exit Glacier – leaving for good?

Will black stone stand where Blackstone Glacier once stood?

In Montana, Blackfoot Glacier shrinks each day.

The other twenty-four headed the same way

Glaciers’ demise may get more than them crying,

Their loss may mean earth’s human life is dying,

Glacial and polar ice death no mystery.

If we do nothing, glaciers are history”

Signed, saddened for the sobbing, shrinking Glaciers


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