Spitsbergen Screen Prints

Three Crowns, SpitsbergenI was fortunate enough to visit Spitsbergen in the summer of 2012.  An island on the west of the Svalbard archipelago, by a quirk of climatology the gulf stream keeps this warmer than the rest of the arctic at this latitude which means that you can get up as near as 700 miles from the North Pole with not too much difficulty. 

 I found it an interesting place because it has never had an indigenous population. Its human history starts with its discovery and exploitation as a whaling ground from the 17th century.  The remains of this first arctic oil exploration are occasionally visible along the coastline, and the landscape has not changed since this time.  The stark jagged peaks that I saw would be recognisable to the whalers that travelled up here from ports in England, Scotland, Holland and Denmark. 

 The blocky contrast between the snow, rock,  skies and sea seemed to be perfectly suited to screenprinting.  Back at home I hand paint out the snow on the screen to keep the white, print the blues of the sky and sea, then cover those areas up and print the black, giving that wonderful stark contrast.  And because I can, I print some versions in just this final black and white, producing a very different but equally beautiful prints.

To highlight  continuity with the early explorers I have named the prints for the old place names,  Coal Haven, in Kings Bay is now the research station of Ny Alesund in Kongsfjord.  Further north Magdalenefjord was called Tusk Bay for the large number of walrus originally found there.  Some names have stuck – the Three Crowns in King’s Bay (the image accompanying this post) is still called the Tre Kroner today.