John Kelly's en plein air in Antarctica

If there was a school of art called en plein air extreme then painting in the Antarctic would satisfy its rules. In 2013 John Kelly, the Australian-born, Ireland based artist was awarded a fellowship as an artist in residence from the Australian Antarctic Division.

He spent three months in harsh conditions travelling to and from the continent on the ice-breaker the Aurora Australis and painting in its extreme cold. He completed 57 paintings while there which are now in a book called Beyond Woop Woop: John Kelly in Antarctica —  a reference a to the colloquial name for the airbase at Australia’s Casey Station there.

The works created during Kelly’s two months on the ice are now at Hobart’s Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery until September 20 in association with MONA’s Dark Mofo.

In a forward to the book Kelly writes: “It is an enormous challenge to confront the blank page, the white canvas and the white continent simultaneously. How is one to be creative in the remotest, coldest, windiest and bleakest continent on earth? I suspect that standing in it will be akin to a microbe traversing the weave of several metres of stretched Irish linen, pre-primed in oil white of course”.

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All paintings by John Kelly. Photographs by Justin Chambers and Richard Youd.

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