Andrea Krupp reflects on the role of visual artists and transmission in the time of climate change
In 2013, while visiting Iceland, I fell in love with nature. I’m a visual artist and, at the time, I had begun to feel that the direction of my work was calling out for change. I needed to focus my attention on my studio work, so I applied for visual art residencies in the US and abroad. Gullkistan in South Iceland was the first one to offer me an artist-in-residence position, so I leaped.
I have lived in Philadelphia all of my adult life. I never wondered about the state of my relationship with nature. Never felt on a conscious level that anything was missing. But love crept in while I was simply, quietly being present in nature, far from home, in solitude and silence.
I had no idea that the place would affect me so profoundly. The fields of moss and lava and the ancient footpaths that cross them; the mountain forms and the blue winter light; the midnight sun and the uncanny sensation of the white night, and wakeful sleep. I returned every year, each time exploring different locations around the island, in different seasons, both dark and light. These things, and the wild unseen interior of the island, fed my imagination, and the direction and intention behind my work changed in unforeseen ways. This love affair with Iceland in particular, and the “Northland” in general, with Nature overarching all, is ongoing.
My love for the place led me to learn more about it, and each year I returned to Iceland with a deeper feeling of connection. Through the land I began to think about the sagas that unfolded underfoot. I learned about the language, and the Viking hoard of manuscripts and books, Iceland’s prized cultural treasures at the National Library in Reykjavik. Spending time with these profound expressions of humanity, fresh from the ancient past, vibrating with life, gave rise to the idea of transmission, which I define as human cultural transactions that pass forward and backward through time. We all do it, humans are really good at transmission, it comes naturally to us. Transmissions carry the building blocks of culture and knowledge, and this concept has become a tenet of my visual arts practice.
I am thinking about transmission because climate change is an abstract and difficult thing to comprehend, but we, as a species, cannot delay addressing it, and art can help. As a visual artist, I explore how the visual transmits, and how an image works on the viewer’s understanding of what is, what was, and what could be. What is “arctic”, what is “nature”, what does “thriving” look like, or “imbalance”? To understand climate change is to grasp a concept that is un-human in scale, yet rooted in the minutia of our daily existence, both small and immense at the same time. How we perceive and respond to the realities of the here-and-now will directly shape the future, and I believe that visual art has an important role to play in that exchange.
Andrea Krupp is a visual artist living in Philadelphia. Her current exhibition, Northland, presents works on paper and artist’s books based on her visual arts residencies in the Arctic. Northland will be on display at Twenty-two Gallery from May 11 to June 3. Please visit Andrea’s website for more information. www.andreakrupp.com