An Artist in South Georgia is a record of an artist fulfilling a Shackleton Scholarship in the remote British sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia between December 2002 and March 2003. The sketches and paintings of Grytviken depict the derelict whaling station before the sizeable demolition and massive environmental clean-up completed during the southern summers of 2004 and 2005 and thus form an important and unique element of the heritage of this beautiful island.
MOLLY SHERIDAN was born in England and studied art, architecture and interior design at Napier College, Edinburgh University between 1968 and 1973. Following her studies she worked in London as an Exhibition Designer.
In August 2002 she was awarded a Shackleton Scholarship to travel to South Georgia. Arriving at King Edward Point in early December 2002, she spent three months on location in South Georgia. She was able to seize a unique opportunity to board a 15metre motor yacht visiting the Island en route to the Northeast Passage. Thus from Polar Bound she was able to sketch and paint in the more remote fjords and bays from Cape Disappointment to the Bay of Isles. Molly developed her sketches into paintings using a number of mediums. These were done in a temporary studio established above the generator house in King Edward Point and later in her studio in France.
She held an exhibition of her South Georgia paintings at the Scott Polar Institute, Cambridge, from October 2003 to March 2004. 64 pages with over 130 illustrations.
‘An Artist in South Georgia’ – Book Review
By Howard Pearce. (Former Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands)
There was a touch of inspiration about the award to Molly Sheridan of a Shackleton scholarship. By enabling her to spend three months on South Georgia, it not only extended the family connection with the Island (Molly’s husband, Guy, had led the forces which returned South Georgia to British control following the short-lived occupationin1982), but more to the point it gave Molly the opportunity to use her artistic talents to record images of SouthGeorgia in pastel and crayon, oil and watercolour. This book, published nearly five years later, provides an opportunity for a wider audience to enjoy the results.
I had the privilege of meeting Molly on my own first visit to the Island in February 2003. She was clearly excited by what she found, and her enthusiasm was palpable. I admired her readiness to suffer discomfort and take risks to secure the images she wanted. Not every artist would readily bounce around in a small boat on the southern ocean swell or locate a studio in cramped quarters above a set of noisy generators. But for Molly this was all part of the fun.
South Georgia provides an extraordinary range of raw material for the artist: splendid land and sea-scapes, spectacular wildlife, the drama of the decaying whaling stations, and the ever-changing light. Molly’s pictures draw inspiration from all of these, and delight in the way in which man-made relics coexist with the natural. While there is an ugliness and brutality about the whaling stations, nature seems to have found a way of assimilating even these symbols of human exploitation and they have taken on a beauty of their own. I found particular pleasure in Molly’s paintings of Fur Seals making their homes in the abandoned buildings (“Rusty playground – fur seals in Husvik” and “The Leith lot – fur seals in a boiler house”), while in “The pier at Leith” and “Sealers Albatros and Dias from the Grytviken track” the whaling stations and associated relics share the aesthetic honours with the natural landscape.
In addition to their aesthetic quality, these paintings also serve a valuable purpose in recording scenes which, as a result of the depredations of the climate or (in the case of Grytviken) Government’s clean-up programme, are fast disappearing.
In her pure landscapes, Molly’s painting has a solidity and a power which convey the awe-inspiring character of the scene. “Bertrab Glacier, Gold Harbour”, “Entrance to Cumberland Bay at the Right Whale Rocks” and “Hanging Glacier – Drygalski Fjord” use almost cubist techniques to express this quality. “Fortuna Bay” and “Wild South Georgia – Fortuna Bay” convey the sheer majesty of the landscape and the terrible power of South Georgia’s volatile climate.
The wildlife pictures are, by contrast, a delight. They capture their subjects in characteristic pose with skill and wit, and communicate the pleasure which Molly found in their quirks, character, and sheer beauty.
In short, this volume, while displaying one artist’s response, should provide pleasure to anybody who has been seduced by the South Georgia magic.ISBN 2-9525255-1-X. Available through The South Georgia Heritage Trust: www.sght.org
The Polar Times
Journal of the American Polar Society
An Artist in South Georgia
by Molly Sheridan
(White Peak Publishing, 2007, 64pp,)
Reviewed by Jeff Rubin
Artist Molly Sheridan got what she calls “a rare opportunity” when she travelled to South Georgia in 2002-03 thanks to a Shackleton Scholarship (her husband Guy Sheridan, a Royal Marine officer who fought in the Falklands War, oversaw the recapture of South Georgia – see below).
Working from a studio set up in one corner of a boatshed in the British Antarctic Survey station at King Edward Point, Sheridan made several dozen oil, pastel and watercolor paintings. But she hardly spent her three-month sojourn indoors. She travelled to isolated fjords and bays, abandoned whaling stations and remote penguin rookeries, and even taught art classes en plein air to BAS scientists.
Sheridan’s book reminds us again of how good artists can capture things that photographers are unable to. These sketches and paintings of seals, penguins, rusting ruins of whaling stations, and, above all, the mountainscapes of South Georgia, reveal the atmosphere and sense of the place in a way no camera can.
South Georgia government officials were so pleased with Sheridan’s visit and its results that they are reported to be contemplating a government-backed “Artist and Writers’ programme” for photographers, painters, sculptors, writers, historians and archaeologists much like the one begun many years ago by the U.S. National Science Foundation in Antarctica.