Polly Townsend’s billboard is inspired by her recent experience as Artist in Residence in the Antarctic in January 2023, funded by The Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute and hosted by The Royal Navy on board HMS Protector.
The billboard work uses acrylic and watercolour paint, both long-standing mediums in the painting tradition. Acrylic, a plastic polymer mix, is used to form the ocean backdrop of the painting. The iceberg is painted in watercolour; mixed with the water collected off the Western Antarctic ice shelf.
Bethnal Green Nature Reserve
Over a three-month period, the iceberg will be repeatedly repainted as the artwork degrades, changing colour and shape due to exposure to the elements (rain, sun, wind). The work raises questions of value, impermanence, and connection.
- As the world's largest and most distant wilderness melts, what is the link with our local community?
- What is the role of the City of London, whose skyscrapers look down on the billboard, and which continues to finance multi-billion-pound fossil fuel investments? These contribute to an accelerating destabilisation of the polar regions that regulate the Earth's climate.
The billboard and additional images shown in the writer's hut (displaying works painted on-site in Antarctica) connects two ecosystems: 10,000 miles apart, one 10 billion times larger than the other, yet interdependent and equally miraculous.
Supported by the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute & Bethnal Green Nature Reserve Trust.
*Feedback: information that can improve a situation; a loop or cycle whereby one variable changes another and is in turn changed; a process that can either amplify or reduce the effects of climate forcings.
The Bethnal Green Nature Reserve is a cultural institute focused on ecological research and community learning in the heart of East London.
They host an annual residency for researchers working across the humanities, architecture and science. Their public programme actively engages with the environmental and social complexities of the surrounding urban landscape.
This space is a WW2 bomb-site that has been cared for since 1977 by local residents, volunteers, staff, trustees and its non-human inhabitants. The Nature Reserve has a delicate and complex ecosystem of plants, bats, birds, trees, soil, fungi, amphibians, insects, invertebrates and mammals (including people). They collectively want this space to exist and nurture a diverse urban ecosystem for many years to come.