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DAY 3/4 - Kashmir 6000m & Kashmir 6100m, Oil on Canvas, 72x60 inches



These two paintings were made in succession and took 4-8 weeks each to complete. They were made in response to each other and I generally try and show them together. As the titles suggest they are based on a view I saw in Kashmir while climbing at the height of 6000/6100m. At 6000m it is extremely hard to breath. Every step was exhausting and the 100m between these two perspectives were probably the most difficult 100m of my life. In the time it took to make this short journey, so much had changed; the clouds had moved and this affected the light and the entire sense of line, shape and rhythm in the landscape below, it was a reminder that landscapes are living and changing, nothing is definite - I wanted to make a work that reflected this.This mountain is as high as I am ever likely to go. In mountaineering terms it’s not a particularly difficult or technical climb, but it’s not a place for the faint-hearted. On the way back down we came across two very ill western women; one unconscious and the other semi-conscious from acute altitude sickness – their young guide had gone back to the valley for help and if we had not lowered them down the mountain they wouldn’t have survived. I also watched another climber fall from the ridge and slip towards a sheer drop – luckily he self-arrested with his ice axe, but if he hadn't he probably wouldn’t have survived either. However, the views are spectacular! It probably goes without saying that I didn’t paint on the mountain, in fact much of the climb was done in darkness. On summit day we set off at 2am with head torches and climbed for 14hrs straight (getting up and back down as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of avalanche from sun warming the snow). I didn’t stick around to get the easel out and it was almost too cold to take photographs but I made a lot of memories and from those, and a few pictures, I composed these paintings in the (comparative) warmth of the studio.

The first of the two paintings took 8 weeks of full-time work. It took a long time to resolve the composition and has a heavily worked surface, large sections were repeatedly repainted, building the basic structure up from large loose brushstrokes to more tightly formed sections. The many layers and glazes are visible in certain lighting conditions.

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Polly Townsend

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