Wave: Land’s End Study II. Cape Denison, Antarctica. ©Alasdair McGregor. Gouache on paper, 52 x 38cm.
Imagine being commissioned to paint en plein air at the world’s windiest location recorded at sea level.
Meet my friend and shipboard colleague Alasdair McGregor. If Alasdair wasn’t such a nice guy, he could be really irritating. That’s because he can rightfully lay claim to not one but several creative talents.
Alasdair began his working life as a professionally trained architect but has devoted years to writing and painting, esteemed in both regards. Alasdair has written numerous books: you name it: natural history, architecture and design, biography, great explorers. With my own Antarctic background, one of my faves is his brilliant biography Frank Hurley: A Photographer’s Life.
As a writer and visual artist, Alasdair has spent significant creative time in Antarctica. In the 1980s he took part in a mountaineering expedition to sub-Antarctic Heard Island. In the late 1990s he was artist and photographer for two expeditions to Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, recorded as the windiest place on earth at sea level. Alasdair’s painting, Wave: Land’s End Study II, comes from his Commonwealth Bay experience. Here is what he has to say about it.
Spending seven weeks in early 1998 camped on the ice at Cape Denison was an immense physical and artistic challenge for me. For a plein air artist, it was not just the cold, but the ferocious winds for which this stretch of Antarctic coast is justly infamous that had me apprehensive from the start. But I need not have worried. There were fine and calm moments every few days and I made the most of them. I was particularly fascinated by the spectacular ice cliffs that stretched away to the horizon to the east and west of the tiny cape. The cliffs were the physical, and in many ways, the psychological limits of our existence. So near and yet untouchable, I would venture to what Mawson’s expedition dubbed Land’s End and John O’Groats to paint the cliffs in all lights and at all times of day. To me they the essence of frozen motion and this is what I sought to capture in my work.
Learn more about Alasdair and his wonderful creations at www.alasdairmcgregor.com.au
Beautiful image and remarkable backstory. i’ve always loved and been fascinated by storms and wild weather, but not sure i would want to live it quite so frequently. Thanks Robyn and Alistair for bringing it to us adventurer-wannabes.
Thank you, Rotting Post. Having just caught up with your last post, I am convinced that taking a taxi in NYC rates equally on the wild and adventurous stakes!
Dear Robyn, I love Alasdair’s painting and really enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing it… Would you believe it was Alasdair’s evocative painting “Christmas Bells (Maatsuyker Island)” that partly inspired me to want to see the native plants on Maat. I discovered it years ago in one of my favourite books – “Australia’s Wild Islands” by Quentin Chester and Alasdair McGregor.
I love that connection and I love thinking about how we are inspired to do things in life. The Christmas Bells at Maatsuyker really are beautiful. Thanks Marg.
Beautiful painting. You certainly get to meet some interesting people on your travels, Robyn! x
Thanks, Amanda. I agree on both counts. 🌞🛳
Dear Robyn, thank you for introudcing the remarkable Alasdair. I love how he views the cliffs as ice in motion. Great painting too! 🙂
A fitting observation, Marlish. Thank you. I think that’s what I especially love about Alasdair’s work: it feels so alive. ❄️❄️