Sunderland artist returns from Arctic expedition

Chris Blade in Arctic
Chris Blade in Arctic
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A SUNDERLAND artist has travelled thousands of miles as part of an expedition to the Arctic Circle.

Chris Blade, head of commissioning and the studio at National Glass Centre, was the only British man among a group of 26 international artists and writers to brave the “bearable” –15˚C Arctic summer.

He left his base on the River Wear on September 24 for the trip as part of a collaborative project organised by the Arctic Circle group, which is a New York-based arts charity.

Painters, photographers, and musicians made up some of the 14 nationalities in the group.

They flew to Svalbard, Norway, before embarking on a traditionally rigged 160ft tall ship for the three-week voyage.

Chris, who wanted to base a project on the landscape and environment of the Arctic, said it was inspirational.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, despite however much reading anyone does beforehand,” he said.

“It’s outstandingly beautiful and remote, and I don’t think you realise quite how so until you’re actually there.”

Chris, who has now returned to the National Glass Centre with an impressive collection of photographs featuring seals, polar bears and glaciers, travelled north, stopping to pursue projects on land, ice or sea and living in cramped conditions in tiny cabins.

He sailed through treacherous sea conditions, and it wasn’t until he was 600 miles short of the North Pole that he got to work with his camera to capture the natural scenery on offer.

“It was all an incredible experience, especially the scenery and how, in a few places with a legacy of human habitation, the mining and whaling industries still affect the environment,” he said.

He added: “In the UK we’re saturated with images through the media and advertising.

“Most people have seen images of the Arctic, so have developed preconceptions of what it’s like, but when you actually get there and see it in front of you, then the experiences of seeing, feeling and hearing it hits home at to just how remote, beautiful and hostile the Arctic really is.

“I love the remoteness and harshness of the environment and feeling that I’m away from everything except raw nature. There’s something wonderful about it all.”

•A photography exhibition of Chris’s work will be on display at National Glass Centre next year, and he is currently working on a series of glass works inspired by the trip.