Adventure is a bold word that is used to describe any number of experiences. For Rheged, Adventure has been closely linked to our development, indeed the Gallery, which this exhibition now occupies, was until 2007 the home of the National mountaineering Exhibition developed by the Mountain Heritage Trust. ADVENTURES honours this connection with a series of loans from the Trust which artist Derek Eland has responded to with a selection of his own related work.
Sir Chris Bonington is one of the founding members of the Mountain Heritage Trust and is one of the most recognised names in mountaineering, however his own experiences show that adventure is not confined to climbing. A series of never-before-seen photographs within this exhibition perfectly capture the range of adventure Sir Chris has experienced in his lifetime. One series from
1977 shows the dramatic expedition to the Ogre, in the Himalayas, which could have so nearly ended in tragedy when Doug Scott broke both his legs near
the summit. An earlier series from 1968 shows an expedition descending the Blue Nile with the British Army. Here Bonington trades rock and ice for jungle and swamp with the danger of falling swapped for the risk of ambush by local tribesmen or fearsome crocodiles.
Ice Breaker Oden by Andreas Palmén
Julian Cooper working on Scafell Crag
Julian Cooper surely felt this very acutely as he undertook the commission from The Mountain Heritage Trust for Scafell Crag, the monumental painting that hangs outside the gallery by the bridge. The exhibition shows some of his early sketches and tells the story of how this painting came to be, amidst shrinking deadlines and the terrible backdrop of foot and mouth – restricting access to the very landscape Julian was to paint.
Alastair Humphreys’ Micro Adventure Selfie
Adventurer Alastair Humphreys brings the attention back to us – how do we access ‘Adventure’ ourselves? His series of ‘micro adventures’ have inspired a range of local people to have their own brush with adventure. Quite apart from his grand adventures, walking across India, cycling around the world, his micro adventures are small personal expeditions, often no more than a few miles from his home. Alastair says ‘Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.’ You have the chance to do this yourself, and even see your own thoughts on adventure in this exhibition by taking a set of Alastair’s instructions and having your own micro adventure.
Norfolk Joiner Michael Thompson shows us another altogether different perception of adventure. In 2010 he decided to attempt to construct the world’s first 100% wooden bicycle, the Splinterbike. The documentary that accompanies the bike shows the media attention and the triumphs and defeats
of his unusual mission, which seems to follow much the same narrative pattern as a polar expedition or challenging ascent. What the Splinterbike shows us is that exposing ourselves to the risk of failure is as much of an adventure in what feels like and increasingly safe western environment.
Julian Cooper’s pallatte whilst painting Scafell Crag
In 1999, John Dunning, the vision behind Rheged, asked if I would be interested in making a large painting to hang on one of the main walls of the new visitor centre, still under construction. He showed me round the shell of the building and we discussed some possible spaces for the painting. The idea was to host a permanent National Exhibition of Mountaineering at Rheged, the Mountain Heritage Trust being formed for the purpose. The new painting was to celebrate mountaineering and the role of the Lake District in the birth of rock climbing.
I’d done a previous small painting of climbers on Central Buttress Scafell, and showed this to the MHT to give them idea of the proposed subject. They
approved it, and over the next few weeks I sketched out several possibilities up on the mountain. The wall that John Dunning had settled on a long horizontal wall in the restaurant, so the sketches were with that landscape format in mind.
Next, the commissioning process was handed over to John Innerdale, MHT’s chairman, and he succeeded in winning Heritage Lottery funding for the painting.
I developed the idea of Scafell Crag sweeping across the picture with Pikes Crag on the right, and Wastwater between the sea beyond. Climbers of various
The massive stretcher for Scafell Crag laid out on Julian’s studio floor in Ambleside
types would be in action throughout the painting. It would be a horizontal painting about 15 ft x 7ft, perfect for the subject. One of my biggest commissions to date.
Then the proposed wall for the painting changed -without me knowing – the new space was 25 ft high and 15 ft wide – so Pikes Crag had to be moved in front of Scafell, deleting the landscape in between. This seemed to work, so the stretchers were made to measure in London, the canvas ordered and I got to work.
The painting was going to be 13 ft high and 10 ft wide – luckily my then studio in Ambleside had a high ceiling. I found a man in Cark-in-Cartmel who sold me some interior scaffolding, essential for working on the top half of the painting. Having primed the canvas I made a ground with raw umber pigment and acrylic medium, adding sand to give it grit. Talking to the writer David Craig I mentioned the commission and he volunteered with his climbing partner Chris Culshaw to model for the climbers on Pikes Crag. In 2000 we spent a rainy but successful day on the crag with them climbing a ‘Difficult’ route called “Crenation Ridge”.
Early in 2001 the Foot and Mouth crisis had started and the fells were out of bounds. I’d wanted to anchor the composition with a figure scrambling up the gully in the foreground, hand outstretched, entering into the viewer’s space.
My niece Rebecca agreed to model for this and she clambered up and down
Julian referring to photographs for the painting
a ladder at Grasmere while I photographed her from the flat roof above. It did the job.. But I still needed climbers on a more serious route on Scafell Crag. Then in August I had an urgent call from John Innerdale, saying Rheged was to be opened by the Prime Minister, and imminently. He came over to inspect the painting, was satisfied that it could go up on the wall, and I hastily made the transport arrangements.
To remove it from my studio meant unstretching and rolling up the canvas, then re-assembling it inside Rheged. Hanging the painting took 4 men, ropes, 2 long ladders, and a specially made framework to support it whilst it was secured to the wall. When Tony Blair unveiled the painting in September 2001 and made a speech about the foot and mouth crisis, my main concern was that it wasn’t finished, I still had to add some more climbers. Luckily, Lord Inglewood, one of
the guests, kindly offered his large nearby threshing barn as a studio to finish the painting. Then the foot and mouth restrictions ended, and I was on Scafell again with Steve Goodwin, his son Danny, and Rebecca’s boyfriend Jim Evans. They’d volunteered to climb a classic ‘Hard Severe’ route called “Moss Ghyll Grooves”. I photographed them all the way up with a long lens from my position in Pikes Crag Gully. Even from a quarter of a mile away, due to freak weather and acoustics I could hear the climber’s conversations as they ascended the crag.
Six months later the painting was back on the wall in Rheged with the important addition of those small but significant figures on the Crag.
JOHN INNERDALE MBE
John Innerdale is a prolific climber, writer and painter. He also founded the Mountain Heritage Trust and curated the National Mountaineering exhibition at Rheged for several years.
For ADVENTURES John has loaned several of his much treasured expedition journals. These beautifully bound books collate the writings and sketches made by John in the field.
The sketchbooks bring into question the relationship between artist and adventurer. Can one be a better artist by thinking like an adventurer? Or a better adventurer by thinking like an
The Towers of Paine by John Innerdale MBE
Jonthathan Trotman has been living and painting in the lake district for almost 20 years. His bold, thickly impastoed compositions are largely painted with a pallet knife. Jon exhibits a great deal of
confidence in his mark making, with broad sweeps of intermingled colours stretching across the coarse, rugged mountain faces of his Lake District subjects.
In ADVENTURES Jon’s painting Approaching Great End faces Julian Cooper’s Scafell Crag Sketches. The same looming mountain form can be seen in each image, with climbers marching towards it with great purpose.
Approaching Great End by Jonathan Trotman
THE CHRIS BONINGTON PICTURE ARCHIVE
Chris Bonington piloting a military aircraft during the 1968 Blue Nile expedition
Sir Chris Bonington is one of this generations most accomplished and recognised mountaineers. His career spans over six decades and found its genesis in the fells and mountains of Cumbria’s Lake District, where he still lives.
In 1963 Chris made the first ascent of the dramatic Tower of Paine, visited by John Innerdale, and detailed in his journal opposite Chris’ photographs in
the Gallery – John writes ‘The epic tales of [the] 62/63 1st ascents are part of mountaineering folklore’.
In the mid to late sixties Chris was an adventure journalist for the Daily Telegraph, an occupation which frequently took him on exotic and richly varied expeditions including a 1966 ascent of the highly active volcano Sangay in Ecuador with Sebastian Snow. It was through Bonington’s work with the Daily Telegraph that he found himself on a dramatic expedition with the British Army – the first descent of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. The images shown in the central space of the Gallery
Chris Bonington at the Western Summit of the Ogre (7285m) in 1977
show the dramatic scenery and unfamiliar landscape of this expedition, led by the inimitable Captain John Blashford-Snell, who is photographed complete with pith helmet and imperialist sneer. Bonington writes of Blashford-Snell ‘He would have been happy 200 years ago exploring and conquering deepest Africa.’ All this being said Blashford Snell went on to found what woudl become Raliegh International – an organisation that has given many young people the opportunity
to have their own adventures. This expedition bought real danger quite apart from the risk of falling or freezing in mountain conditions. Local tribesmen frequently ambushed the party, and on several occasions they were forces to repel these attacks with gunfire.
In the first space in the Gallery is a series of photographs from Bonington’s epic first ascent of the Ogre in 1977. After reaching the main summit of this craggy, deeply challenging mountain Bonington’s climbing partner Doug Scott had a bad fall whilst rappelling down, breaking both his legs. The team (also consisting of Nick Estcourt, Clive Rowland and Mo Anthoine) had to weather a terrible storm, going for five days without food. Doug Scott made the descent by crawling on his knees, the rest of the team took his gear but were unable to carry him. The descent was successful, although Bonington broke several ribs after suffering a bad fall himself.
From Hadrian’s Wall With Love, Film Still
Derek Eland’s life seems to have revolved around a series of adventures – from his time as a paratrooper to running the Bob Graham Round and going to Afghanistan in 2011 as a war artist.
For ‘Adventures’ he has spent time engaging with and responding to objects from the Mountain Heritage Trust. Eland says “It seems entirely natural to have engaged with the wonderful Mountain Heritage collection and a privilege to exhibit my own work alongside it. This process has been an adventure in itself.”
How does an artist react to such an amazing collection of objects? For this exhibition Derek Eland has responded by both creating new work and echoing Mountain Heritage Trust pieces with existing works. Reflective, and at times playful, the intention is to create a narrative which helps in the interpretation or reinterpretation of these Mountain Heritage pieces and his own artworks.
Sometimes the comparisons are quite literal, such as Derek’s ongoing collection of photographs of lost or abandoned gloves presented adjacent to a single
mitt from an Everest expedition, not lost but carefully kept as part of the MHT archive. Other comparisons seem more oblique but still compelling, such as the
hob-nailed boots produced for the film Five Days, One Summer starring Sean Connery. Connery’s stunt double was a recognised mountaineer, Paul Nunn – who wore these boots which at first appear to be real antique equipment, but on closer inspection are clearly grossly exaggerated and impractical. In response Eland presents his From Hadrian’s Wall With Love which at first glance seems to be the genuine article, but after a little time unfolds into a humorously over-
the-top parody. Paul Nunn, meanwhile, the wearer of those hob-nail boots, would have accompanied Chris Bonington on his 1975 Everest expedition, but was not properly acclimatised for the altitudes involved.
For the Eland, the adventures continue with the publication of the book “In Our Own Words” about his time as a war artist in Afghanistan, alongside an exhibition the original work at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, in November 2014.
THE MOUNTAIN HERITAGE TRUST
The Mountain Heritage Trust, founded in 2000 and based in Penrith, preserves the vibrant history of British mountaineering and mountain culture. MHT makes its Collections relevant and accessible via exhibitions, events and new projects, such as this current display and through the ongoing exhibition at Keswick Museum.
From the home crags to the Alps, the Himalaya and the greater ranges,
British climbers and mountaineers have left an incredible legacy of dreams and achievements. MHT exists to collect, preserve and promote these stories.
You can follow MHT on Twitter @MHT_Info.
Looking down into Hollow Stones, Scafell, Richard Fisher
Richard Fisher was born at Wythburn, Thirlmere, in 1925. After war service, he was apprenticed for five years at the Keswick School of Industrial Arts learning silver-smithing and woodcarving. He subsequently attended various art courses at Farnham, Hull, Hamburg and Gottingen School of Art.
Richard’s work can be seen in local churches and in various locations around the country. He has been a skier and mountaineer for most of his life and was a founder member of Keswick Mountain rescue team.
For ADVENTURES Richard is presenting paintings of climbers and mountain rescue teams set against a Lakeland backdrop. The misty landscapes look unforgiving and foriegn, and the contrasting figures making their way through them seem to be beset by adveristy. The bright orange of their clothing echo the suspended red rescue stretcher that is inching its way down Derek Eland’s painting Mountain Rescue, that hangs opposite in the exhibition.
Oli Robson is a sculptor who works primarily in wood. Oli is a tree surgeon and uses leftover parts of the trees he works on for sculptures, finding forms in the knotted and twisted pieces of wood. Oli’s series of sculptures for ADVENTURES is called Cambium Climbing, named for Vascular Cambium, the woody part of
a plant’s structure. Oli spoke with Cumbrian Climbing expert Roy Kenyon , and as a result of these conversations his objects tell a pocket history of climbing equipment through wood.
- Chouinard Axe: The first ice axe designed by Yvon Chouinard with a curved pick. I started my work with this axe. This was the first major leap in axe technology.
- Ice Hammer: Again made by Chouinard, this axe features a heavily defined curved pick drawn from his previous ideas for the way axes should be.
- Terrodactyl: A classic axe, again a trend setter for axes to come. Featuring a down turned straight pick. A real knuckle basher.
- Predator: This were the first axes to feature a curved shaft. Another break though that current axes owe their design to.
- Quark: The final axe I studied during my research into Ice Axe evolution.
- Giant Axe: Made from a curved Ash branch, I just knew that was it’s purpose.
- Cambium Cam: The first wood piece I made that led me to look at all aspects of climbing gear and how to represent them using wood.
- Stoppers, Wires, Nuts & Rocks: Based on the simplest protection. Originally nicked railway bolts and knots were used, tied in a length of rope placed into cracks in the rock.
- Pegs & Pitons: An idea that boomed in Yosemite – pegs that are hammered into cracks until secure. Some are made from the same steel used in rockets.
- Climbing holds: Having climbed for many years, I always liked the texture and quirky shapes found in wooden holds.
MARK GIBBS AND
Mark Gibbs is a Carlisle-based artist who works primarily in painting and sculpture. His work has been exhibited internationally and he has been shortlisted for the Wildlife Artist of the Year 5 times.
Andreas Palmén is a freelance photographer based in Umeå, Sweden. He is specialized in portrait, editorial and scientific photography. Andreas has a
multidisciplinary background with a M.Sc. in population genetics and conservation biology and photographic training as assistant to the Vanity Fair photographer Jonas Fredwall Karlsson. He is represented by Folio Images in Stockholm.
Mark and Andreas have selected work for ADVENTURES based on a collaborative discourse, leading to a range of complementary images, paintings and sculpture.
For a while now my work has felt a Northern chill. I’ve been making; animals of tundra, moor and forest, paintings of their habitat, and embedding images in an ice-like resin.
I’m influenced by contemporary environmental issues such as climate change and deforestation but also by cave art. However, if last year you had told me I would be making work inspired by photographs of ice breakers, I would have been surprised. That’s creativity for you- it’s an inner adventure; you never know where it’s going to lead.
That’s a very rich experience, but it’s also very demanding; to work obsessively chasing a hunch… trying to make something which does two opposite things at the same time and isn’t clichéd. If you take my animals as an example, they move from the relative security of realism to an inner sculptural, visceral form… almost deconstructed. It can be uncomfortable but so is climbing a mountain.
This show is about comparing outer and inner adventure, but also participants making connections with each other. I met Andreas on the web via one of his marvellous Musk ox images. I’m delighted to be exhibiting alongside him; I think our work has many points of connection, which have already sparked new possibilities.
When Rheged’s Curator John Stokes contacted me about the upcoming exhibition “Adventures” at the Rheged Centre I was thrilled. How exiting to be part of a great display and to do it together with artist Mark Gibbs. Then after the first excitement had cooled I started to think about the theme of the exhibition.
How would I relate to the theme and how could my work apply to the idea of adventure? I decided on two contrasting themes within my area of the display. The big adventure as represented by my images from an expedition on the icebreaker Oden in the Bothnian Bay. And the small private adventure would be represented by a collection of contrasting smaller images from the woodlands of northern Sweden.
The Oden is a large Swedish icebreaker, named after the Norse god. It was originally built in 1988 to assist and clear a passage for cargo ships through the ice of the Gulf of Bothnia during wintertime. Soon it was modified to also be able to serve as a research vessel and in 1991 it was the first non-nuclear surface vessel to reach the North Pole. The Oden is 108 m long and has an icebreaking capacity of 1,9 m level ice at 3 knots. During the winter months there are a lot of icebreakers working to keep the seaways open for traffic in the Gulf of Bothnia both from Sweden and Finland, but none is as powerful as the icebreaker Oden.
I boarded Oden at the Port of Luleå in mid-march last year. For one week I had the privilege to be an observer with access to almost all activities on board. This was not one of Oden’s scientific expeditions. Instead it was all about what Oden was designed for in the first place; giving rapid assistance to ships that got stuck in the ice, gathering and leading convoys of cargo ships when the conditions require and in the meantime keeping the seaways as open as possible for traffic.
The contrast between the powerful icebreaker in action and the quiet white icy landscape is striking. After some time it is easy to imagine that you are all alone despite being on a ship but then suddenly you pass by a small colony of grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, with newborn cubs on the ice. When the night falls and if you have a clear sky you can get the opportunity to observe the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. With practically no light pollution everything on the sky is as clear and crisp as your breath in the winter night.
Everyone can make their own adventure. It is just a matter of leaving the everyday comfort zone. The adventure is out there and it is up to you to decide when and where to look after it. You decide.
Creating the work for this exhibition has in itself been an adventure. The brief was to create work based on Joss Naylor’s career using my own mix of mixed media and bookmaking skills. The research came first and Keith Richardson’s book “Joss” was invaluable and inspirational. I have been walking in these hills since I was 19 but the thought of running up one, let alone a whole succession of them filled me with awe. I also read “Feet in the Clouds” by Richard Askwith, watched the DVD “Iron Man”, went to a fell race (I drew the line at joining in!) and talked to a couple of fell runners.
I wanted my work to tell some of the stories and I have used a mix of maps, my own photographs and etchings, stitch and bookmaking techniques to do so.
Every new exhibition brings its own challenges but this one more than most has stimulated me to try new ways of working and blending different techniques together.
The relatively short time scale for completing the work has at times felt like my own race against the clock but that has been a stimulus to keep going. I keep having more ideas about what I could do, more peaks to climb but am looking forward to having more time to get out into the hills, but to walk not run!
FYNE BOAT KITS
Fyne Boat kits manufacture high quality wooden boat kits. The kits are designed to be hand built by the buyer. The process of assembling, finishing and eventually sailing these boats is quite an undertaking, and in itself an adventure for budding joiners and experience craftsmen alike.
The Expedition Wherry, which appears in the exhibition hanging in an ‘exploded view’ was designed by John C Harris owner and CEO of Chesapeake Light Craft. Harris’s boat design work ranges widely, from dinghies to a 28-foot power catamaran used for surf tours in Nicaragua.
MICHAEL THOMPSON SPLINTERBIKE
In 2010, Michael Thompson made a modest bet with his friend James Tully that he could build the world’s first 100% wooden bike. The bet was for £1 and James said that if Michael could build it, he would ride it.
The subsequent 12 months were a whirlwind of designing, prototyping, testing, failing, retesting and eventually an attempt a world landspeed record for a wooden bike. The media got wind of the process and as the record attempt approached Michael found his creation the Splinterbike featured in national newspapers and TV and radio.
Michael’s story is an example of an adventure that doesn’t involve risk to personal safety, nor the need for excessive wealth. Instead, Michael showed a willingness to begin a process where the end was unclear and expose himself to the risk of failure. In the end his success was measured by not only by achieving a world record, but also the Splinterbike’s inclusion in The Power of Making, a major exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.