High Arctic Light by Janet Read
Travel in the Canadian and Greenlandic high Arctic prompted works exploring atmospheric light and weather. The high Arctic is under threat from rapid climate change, losing permafrost, sea ice and glaciers, an impact overtaking our ability to fully understand and remediate. Arctic fragility, austere beauty, and the urgent need for climate response compel my works.
My ongoing body of work, High Arctic Light, was initiated by a sojourn in the high arctic in 2018. It extends earlier themes in my work referencing water, initiated by residencies in Newfoundland and western Ireland. The northern Atlantic rim fascinates me, an area under threat from extreme rapidity of climate change. The arctic reacts faster than other areas, losing permafrost, sea ice and glaciers: an impact quickly overtaking our ability to fully understand and remediate.
The metaphorical space of light over water that beckons to infinite space is a primary concern in my response to this landscape. Works are large abstract paintings on linen, drawing/paintings on duralar, photographic closeups of tundra, and small book works.
The high arctic is a desert region with a specific clarity and radiance in clear weather prompting the series, Light opens over water on duralar. The translucent surface gives depth to the painted/drawn image and media are graphite and oil. This melding of painting and drawing is a recent direction in my work. The luminous ground evokes the clear arctic air and its nebulous evanescent distances.
My work incorporates improvisation and spontaneous mark making to visualize the processes of wind and water and internally mediated personal experiences of the high arctic. Christian Bernard Singer, former senior curator at the Tom Thomson Gallery, says: "Janet Read's abstract works are like landscapes of consciousness that
metaphorically interpret various states of being of the natural world."
Populated with animals and humans who harmonized with this environment for thousands of years; oceans and ice are essential for cultivation for life in the arctic. "Our garden is the sea," says Susie Evyagotalak from the Innuit community of Kugluktut, an Indigenous interpreter we met in our journey.
Tim Robinson, an Irish artist/mapmaker wrote a description of experiencing the land that resonates deeply with my practice.
While walking the land, I am the pen on the paper; while drawing this map,
my pen is myself walking the land. I wanted to short circuit the polarities of objectivity
and subjectivity, and try keep faith with reality.
Sustainable cultivation, sovereignty, and climate remediation issues prompt my ongoing desire to "keep faith" artistically in various media with my experience of the arctic. An awareness of arctic fragility and beauty, and the urgent need for climate response compel my works: a mode of response to move the heart to knowledge and action.
Janet Read 2022