Lesley Burr: The Arctic Artist

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A unique chance to explore the effects of climate change in art will be undertaken by Lochgilphead artist Lesley Burr this summer, when she travels to South Baffin Island in the Arctic circle.

Lesley, a former ‘Glasgow Girls’ painter, was chosen by the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute to become the ‘artist in residence’ on board an Arctic explorer vessel, which will travel through the remote and beautiful wilderness of the Arctic.

Lesley, 56, said: ‘The aim is to conduct creative research and raise awareness of Arctic themes, such as Inuit culture, ice loss and transformation of habitats due to climate change.’

Lesley’s paintings will then be exhibited in the Compass Art Gallery in Glasgow in 2020/2021.

‘This is such a career highlight for me and I was so delighted to be chosen’ Lesley said. ‘Snow and ice have captivated me and from a young age I’ve been fascinated by stories of polar exploration.’

The 11-day trip is supported by One Ocean Expeditions and the auctioneers Bonhams, and Lesley will be sailing on the ‘RCGS Resolute’, a luxury standard ice vessel which can accommodate 146 passengers. As well as creating her own artwork, Lesley will be explaining the process of her work from initial drawings and photographs, with fellow passengers in an open studio setting.

‘The themes which will most interest me are the interactions between the light and the dark, the changes in texture of the ocean ice and the colours of the icebergs’ Lesley explained. ‘Depending on the weather, the boat will navigate from Frobisher Bay – once a Hudson Bay Trading Post – down narrow fjords with an opportunity hopefully to glimpse wildlife such as polar bears, walrus and rare wild bird colonies.’

Lesley was drawn to the opportunity after having previously lived on Shetland.

‘I lived there between 1994 and 2004, and loved the extreme weather, the ocean storms and the rugged landscape. I am drawn to wild, remote places and the chance to chronicle such an extraordinary place at such a vital time of climate change, is an opportunity I could not miss.’

Lesley studied painting at Glasgow School of Art, before taking an MA in Public Art at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee. She is an experienced teacher and lecturer, currently with Argyll College University of the Highlands and Islands.

She said: ‘I’m most excited about potentially seeing polar bears and possibly even the Bowhead Whale, which is highly elusive and can live for more than 200 years. This will be the artistic trip of a lifetime and I cannot wait.’