Haut Glacier d'Arolla; Emma Stibbon
Chairlift, Saas Fee; Emma Stibbon
Heiltskuk Glacier; NASA
Tidewater Glacier; Emma Stibbon
Stills from glacier animation; Emma Stibbon
Dr Giles Brown
The Alps have long been a focus of attention to both the artist and scientific communities, from an aesthetic response to place, through to scientific methods for remotely monitoring glacier dynamics. Both provide valuable, contrasting records of glacial responses to changing climate.
In 2007 the artist Emma Stibbon undertook work conveying a visual response to the cycle of glaciers and their effect on both the physical landscape and the imagination. Walking in Alpine locations she gathered information through drawing and the camera. In the resulting work she aims to observe something strange in the visual world; the spectacular glacial landscape of the Alps is both impressive and fleeting, and the act of drawing is also a kind of psychological immersion.
An important part of this work was collaboration with a scientist, Dr Giles H Brown, from the University of Bristol, enabling the coupling of a conceptual approach to scientific research. Collaboration with a glaciologist provided insight into the range of both historical and contemporary scientific monitoring methods, and provided a detailed understanding of field observation, recording and mapping skills; the identification and interpretation of landscape forms; and recent research into climate change.
Whilst scientific research gives critical evidence of how our planet is changing, this project aimed to see how we may also perceive and visualise our environment in other ways. It aimed to complement ‘scientific’ methods, which have aimed to capture reality as we see it, with artistic methods which have the ability to illuminate as well as illustrate. It draws attention to the fragility of this pristine environment; a landscape in change, an environment under threat.
Emma Stibbon’s work is a response to landscapes as sites of psychological imaginings and visual phenomena. Through force of nature such as geologically changing or glacially eroded landscape, her interest lies in how apparent permanence can be so fragile.
In 2007 Emma set out to document the remains of summer Alpine glaciers in an extensive study. In this work, Emma has skilfully and delicately translated the unbelievable gifts this extreme environment has to offer into a series of finely made drawings in white chalk and graphite on blackboard and black prepared paper and through a small animated film. In stark monochrome relief, Emma Stibbon raises ice fields up from snow covered valleys: casts views from above expressing impressive height and breadth and exposes the finiteness of this frail place appearing as a melancholy emptiness. Its fate is quietly obvious.
More about Emma Stibbon.
Giles is interested in the role of art, in its myriad of the forms, in portraying science; in his case the world and how it works, and the impact this may have, intentionally or unintentionally, on understanding.
Specifically, Giles is becoming increasingly interested in stimulating engagement in, and awareness of, science in ‘non-scientific’ ways. Art has the ability to engage scientists and non-scientists alike in different ways which augment, complement and contrast with scientific methods of presentation because we are not used to seeing ‘science’ portrayed in these ways, and in ways which perhaps require different interaction, concentration etc. He is also interested in taking art into science settings.
As an example, Giles has a work of Emma’s on the wall of his office which resulted from their collaboration. This has caused much interest, often resulting in conversations and getting scientific source material out, leading to a wider discussion of glaciers, glaciology as a science, climate change etc. (as well as its beauty as a work of art!). He feels if he simply had a photograph of the glacier on the wall then this would perhaps not be commented on – this would simply be what a Geography department would be expected to have on their walls. Thus, it raises questions such as “is art better at creating engagement with science, even in a scientific setting/environment?”
More about Dr Giles Brown.