Arctica began as a childhood dream to visit the Arctic. After discovering that artists and writers could hold residencies there I began searching for a way that I could make it happen. It took around two years and several dead ends before I discovered The Arctic Circle, a US-based international Arctic residency programme that brings artists, writers, scientists and educators together to explore the Arctic and respond creatively to their surroundings. I completed an application and emailed it off, expecting to be rejected.
When I received the acceptance I was ecstatic. I was finally going to visit one of the most amazing places on the planet and spend time writing and making. The programme is heavily subsidised but there is still an expectation on the artist to raise some of the costs, which is common in America where public funding for the arts is virtually non-existent. Over the next few months I made a point of telling people about my plans. One such conversation was with the team at Durham Book Festival and my expedition was a good fit with their programme so they offered me a commission. This was a lifeline and although I wasn’t going to be paid for my time there, at least I knew that my costs would be covered and I could definitely go.
In July 2013 I set off for the Arctic where I met up with a group of amazing artists and writers from all over the world. We spent a few days in the Norwegian settlement of Longyearbyen, before setting sail on a tall ship to explore the Svalbard archipelago, thinking, writing and making art along the way. The experience was life changing and I came back with a full notebook, a series of artist’s books I had made on the ship, a head full of ideas and thousands of photographs of the Arctic landscape. I didn’t know what I wanted to make with all of this material but I had a strong feeling that the subject of the work would be climate change as I had spent a great deal of time thinking and talking about it while I was there.