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Window on the Arctic goes on show in Grantown

By Tom Ramage

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The ice has thawed in Georgia Rose Murray’s brushes but the frostbite is still there in her fingers and will be for a good while yet.

It’s the price an artist pays for immersing herself geographically and spiritually in the work she was born to do.

Georgia Rose Murray and one of the studies on show at High Street Merchants
Georgia Rose Murray and one of the studies on show at High Street Merchants

The Grantown painter has travelled the world, but nowhere was she more in touch with it than during the long polar night of the far north.

“The cold was so intense that everything froze up, including my fingers, until I thought the roles had reversed – I was there to paint the landscape, but I felt it was painting me...”

She escaped before becoming a permanent feature in the volcanic ash and ice that so fascinates her, bringing all her fingers with her to start nursing them back to health.

“It was completely worth it,” she said on Friday, as she introduced the Strathy to the captivating collection her latest expedition produced.

“Arctic Darkness and Light”, which will be on show at the High Street Merchants and Fiona’s Wholefoods for several weeks and will be augmented by a talk she plans for promoting care and concerning for our changing climate highlighted by COP26.

Section from one of Georgia's Arctic landscapes
Section from one of Georgia's Arctic landscapes

Murray’s works depict her fascination with ‘the sublime effects of light and darkness on the natural landscape’, her holistic approach driven by her desire to understand precisely how humans fit into the natural and spiritual worlds.

Writing and drawing throughout day and night, the artist constantly reflects on all of her experiences with coloured pens in sketchbooks.

The results of the process form ‘narratives which lead to the creation of paintings’, she explained.

Her works are made on paper, un-stretched canvas or primed board with water and oil based paints including gloss, vivid powdered pigments and a range of additional mediums.

She uses the language of painting to explore the mystical reality of Northern landscapes, her latest expeditions having taken her to Iceland during a long, long period of Polar Night and to Svalbard, specifically to witness the Midnight Sun, and further north again to take part in The Arctic Circle Autumn Residency.

Most recently she completed a circle of research by witnessing an Arctic sunrise.

As a guest of The Czech Center of Polar Ecology, in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, she worked alongside scientists who shared their knowledge and perspectives, empathising with the Arctic landscape on multiple levels.

Murray was at pains, literally, to describe the processes which have produced such stunning work over her 35 years: “Creating painting research in such an incredible environment, amid 24 hours of daylight, is ultimately inspiring, liberating and humbling.”

Her latest works capture the reality of the Arctic on many layers, depicting the intense beauty, alluring mysticism and sacred space of the Polar landscape.

Within the paintings, brushmarks and colour expressively describe how it felt to be surrounded by such an awesome environment, where the elements preside over humans.

A word of advice: have a nice hot cup or bowl of something in your hands as you enjoy her exhibition.

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