The following text accompanies this painting in Keith Shackleton’s book Wildlife and Wilderness. An Artist’s World:
A warm-blooded, elusive living thing in a frozen environment of ice, snow, water and rock, is a cameo of Antarctica itself. Such a scene could present itself at a thousand and one different places along the continental coastline and most of the islands, making it typical enough to be symbolic.
Man played no part whatsoever in the moulding of this scene. Every shape and every line is the combined product of inexorable natural forces and the passage of time. It is a wilderness that is complete in every aspect and connotation of the word. Only a short
walk on the moon might offer something more harsh, more unwelcoming.
I think a man would need to be a little short on imagination to feel no trace of awe and unease in such places, and a monumental conceit not to feel humbled by it. I know there are times when it can prove just too much and lead to homesickness for the gentler pleasures of walking through fallen leaves again in an English autumn, 7,000 miles away.
Be that as it may, the ingredients of beauty sometimes look strange in isolation. The legendary ‘eye of the beholder’ often seems to be squinting down wonderfully scrambled lenses. Some may well be tinted with rose but I am sure that all are coloured by
association. We find beauty, quite simply, in what we love. Some of us love what others find ugly and forbidding. Perhaps it is ugly because they just cannot see – or perhaps it is beautiful because it has been treated with a very personal form of alchemy.
But I can only speak for myself. Whether or not I should be on a psychiatrist’s couch is academic – I just believe that landscape like this, savage, hostile and unremitting though it may be, by aesthetic standards, is still the most intrinsically beautiful landscape of all.