Breaking Ice: Re-visioning Antarctica

30 July – 2 October 2005

Peter Fitzpatrick, Edgar Evans (1996 – 2005)

Stella Brennan
Phil Dadson
James Charlton
Fiona Davies
Stephen Estaugh
Peter Fitzpatrick
Anne Noble
Stuart Shepherd
David Stephenson

Breaking Ice: ReVisioning Antarctica explored the ways in which Antarctica has been perceived and imagined, historically and culturally. Featuring work by eight contemporary artists from New Zealand and Australia, Breaking Ice presented visual translations of experiences, perceptions and fantasies of Antarctica in distinctive and critical ways, playfully critiquing the processes of Antarctica’s visual representation and revealing the ways that it has been mythologised.

An untamed wilderness, an untouched canvas, a blank page. Over the past century Antarctica has been a fertile source of inspiration for explorers, scientists, writers and artists who have endeavoured to define and describe this vast white continent. From the earliest seafaring narratives, to the photographic accounts of heroism and horror, to hallucinatory visions of fairy-tale castles and sci-fi worlds, Antarctica is a place where only the most courageous or foolhardy have ventured, and where the imagination is free to roam.

Breaking Ice: Re-Visioning Antarctica explores these ideas, highlighting the ways in which this southern land has been perceived and imagined, historically and culturally. The exhibition also investigates what it is that makes this frozen wilderness so alluring and explores how it has become so embedded in the popular imagination. Drawing on ideas of ‘heroism’ and nation building in Antarctica, this exhibition investigates the extent to which the media’s emphasis on ‘the story’ of Antarctica has contributed to a somewhat idealised view of the vast white terrain.

Historically, Antarctica has captivated artists who have been compelled to represent its unfamiliar vistas. Whilst half of the artists in Breaking Ice have ventured south, others were inspired by their own fanciful imaginings of Antarctica. As a result many of the works draw on archival material, popular imagery and the artists’ own perceptions of this great white continent. In Breaking Ice fact and fiction, reality and illusion collided.

Curated by Sophie McIntyre.


Breaking Ice: ReVisioning Antarctica was accompanied by a catalogue which extrapolated on the artists’ works and the concerns raised by the exhibition. Essays by exhibition curator Sophie McIntyre and Elena Glasberg. Available for purchase here