Sunderland glass artist heads for Arctic Circle

Chris Blade
Chris Blade
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AN artist is leaving the sweltering heat of the National Glass Centre to head for the polar opposite.

Artist Chris Blade, who works in the Hot Glass Studio at the centre, will be taking up the role of artist in residence in the Arctic Circle next month.

Chris has been selected out of hundreds of artists to take part in an annual expeditionary residency programme.

He will swap the toasty environment of the studio for the decidedly more chilly climes of Svalbard, where the average temperature at this time of year is -10 degrees Celsius, but can plunge dramatically at any time.

Chris, who will leave on October 23, will travel to Svalbard (former Spitzbergen), which is a mountainous island, 60 per cent glacier and about 800 miles from the North Pole.

While there, he will run a three-week creative residency, organised by the New York-based arts charity The Arctic Circle, on board a traditionally-rigged tall ship with 27 other 
internationally-acclaimed artists.

As well as working with glass, Chris is also a photographer, and he will be developing a body of work exploring his responses to the environment, and especially the scale and remoteness of the landscape.

He hopes to produce colossal panoramic landscapes, composed of dozens of images.

He intends to develop highly detailed images and eventually, a series of glass sculptures, which will first be displayed at the Glass Centre.

Chris, head of enterprise, commissioning and the studio at the University of Sunderland-run venue, has exhibited extensively and has work in public and private collections worldwide.

The artist is no stranger to roughing it, having spent four years on expeditions to various remote areas, but, he says, The Arctic Circle project will offer unique challenges.

He said: “I have to consider the practicalities and difficulties of working in extremely cold environments – everything from freezing to the equipment to being hunted by hungry polar bears.

“I am sure being based on a wooden tall ship with 27 other artists will prove just as challenging.”