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July 25 2014 Latest news:

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Sussex art-lovers have an appealing chance to view Antarctica through the eyes of Duncton-based painter Tuëma Pattie

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This year marks the centenary of Scotts doomed epic slog to the South Pole. David Attenboroughs series Frozen Planet recently provided superb nature-in-the-sub-zero-raw TV, with just a dash of controversy, and now here, in springtime England, comes the hottest/coolest exhibition around for comfortable re-acquaintance with the unique wildlife and beauty of the Antarctic. The intriguingly titled 23 Shades of White is showing March 17-31 at the Moncrieff-Bray Gallery at Egdean, near Petworth.


Among the sculptures by Anita Mandl, Dick Budden, Adam Binder and Helen Denerley are penguins, seals, sea lions and albatrosses. And Duncton-based artist Tuma Pattie is showing a spectacular selection of paintings depicting dozens of polar creatures, from the airborne to the ice-bound. Capturing those scenes were by far the greatest creative challenges she has ever faced: Our cruise ship did the first part of the task getting us from the Falklands to adjacent, paintable ranges of the bird and animals on and around the ice in the polar latitudes of South Georgia and we then, where possible, switched to Zodiac inflatables to land us, a maximum 10 at a time, among the wildlife.


Wearing seven layers of clothing plus a lifebelt doesnt make for easy artistic dexterity, but we needed loads of padding to withstand the unbelievable temperatures, she told me.


And then there was the little matter of penguins, some 40,000, many of them chicks. They were bustling with curiosity, coming right up to us as we sketched or photographed them. Possibly those bites at our rubber boots were comments on us or our artistry!


Tuma and her colleagues were forced to learn new, lightning-fast painting techniques, for the frequently encountered sleet washed paint away in almost an instant. Back on board, things were little easier for creating pictures via the porthole, often awash with sleet or spray, and though tables were bolted to the floor, passengers were not.


The whole experience was an exciting revelation, Tuma recalls, back home in her 13th Century hall-house in the lee of the South Downs. There was such subtlety of colour we called it 23 shades of white and the wide open grandeur of sea, ice and sky to capture. Just recording my first ever iceberg was a thrill in itself.


In view of the often tricky weather although it was officially summer-into-autumn we still had a lively blizzard or two I was delighted to come back with hundreds of sketches and images, the basic material for the 40-plus paintings Im displaying at our Antarctica show. My only regret is that the whales were so shy. Two rather distant sightings of humpbacks were all we could work on.


Tuma the artist feels in various ways thoroughly invigorated by her icy expedition, a wonderful experience to see this very special wildlife in its savagely beautiful setting. Tuma the patriot also feels deeply moved to have sensed something of the demands on mind and muscle confronting valiant Scott and heroic Ernest Shackleton, polar master of the art of survival.


Moncrieff-Bray Gallery T: 07867 978414 E: mail@moncrieff-bray.com

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