Looking at the address of the exhibition space, the Air Gallery, London, W1, you could be forgiven for imagining that Chris Rose’s latest venture was purely undertaken for high income pursuit.
You would be wrong. Along with fellow artist John Gale, Chris worked with the RSPB and Norwegian sponsors, Hurtigruten, to allow a high percentage of the sale of their paintings to go to the Save the Albatross Campaign.
Chris is to be the next guest of the Borders Group of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He will speak about his visit to weather-beaten South Georgia in the South Atlantic to research the pictures on show at the Air Gallery.
Hurtigruten paid the gallery £10,000 to hold the exhibition at its prestigious Mayfair address. This invaluable sponsorship ensured that the artists were able to donate 20 per cent of the painting sales to the conservation project. In real terms the amount donated is an impressive £15,000.
Chris and John did not rest on their laurels. More money is being raised because the RSPB chose a painting from each artist and produced a limited series of prints that has raised a further £10,000. Still the artists have more to give.
When I visited Chris’s somewhat chilly studio, he unveiled a painting of the most ethereal beauty – its simplicity of colour and form is breathtaking. A serene landscape of shattered ice blocks in a bitterly cold sea with four Cape petrels commands my eyes. The black and white of the birds’ plumage is strong but they are small and angel-like against the pale hues of the Antarctic sea-scape.
Chris said: “I had travelled to the Antarctic before as a passenger on a cruise ship but it was a frustrating experience. Taken as I was by the austerity of the landscape, there was little time to capture in any detail the wildlife and scenery when you only get off the ship for two hours at a time.
“My initial impetus was to return and find time to paint. I was put in touch with Sally Poncet who receives sponsor money to research albatrosses.
“John and I were able to pay for two berths on her chartered vessel and we went out in January 2010. With 18 out of 22 albatross species threatened with extinction, her research is crucial. 300,000 albatrosses [pictured, top of page] are killed by long-line fishing boats every year.”
I asked Chris what he was planning as a follow-up to a project of this scale. He told me: “South Georgia absorbed my energies for 18 months so I am happy to sit back and take stock for a period. However, I am in the process of producing illustrations for a bird book.
“ I am also keen to change climates and work on a project in Uganda, where I lived until I was six. Another place I would like to capture through my art is the Arctic – we’ll see.”
For his Royal Scottish Geographical Society talk, Chris will take us on a tour of the landscape and wildlife that he encountered in South Georgia. He will also look atthe conservation issues in this area.
Chris Rose will be giving his lecture at Heriot Watt Campus, Galashiels, at 7.30pm on Tuesday; tickets £8, free for members and children. For more information contact David Langworth 01896 822102.