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ANNE NOBLE
NIEVES PENITENTES, 27 MARCH - 21 APRIL 2012

Anne Noble's new exhibition brings together the physical and the mystical that are so much at the heart of the Antarctic experience. The Spanish term, nieves penitentes, names the distinctive tall snow and ice forms found in the Andes - named for their resemblance to the pointed hoods worn by penitents in Easter Parades throughout Spain and Latin America. Noble employs the term metaphorically to suggest the complex range of ideas at play in human engagement with the southern ice continent.

The exhibition may be seen as the culmination of the artist's decade-long exploration of Antarctica and what she has called the Antarctic imaginary. As nieves penitentes seem to embody the ghosts of penitents, so too this exhibition of Noble's references the ghosts of human history in Antarctica - a human history integrally entwined with a place that has never been a site of permanent human habitation. The faces of the great explorers, Scott and his team who perished 100 years ago, are forever embedded in the ice. The fumarolic ice towers on Erebus are imbued with memories of the Erebus tragedy.

As the project nears its end, this new exhibition pulls together many strands of Noble's investigation of Antarctica with her broader practice. In her {Parihaka} project, Noble photographed historic photographs to expose the subjectivity of history; here she employs a similar strategy to generate, crystallise, a fresh and surprising way of seeing and representing history and landscape. The source of Noble's photographs of Scott and his team is a photograph taken by the men at the South Pole in 1912 with a camera operated using a string.

Noble's project has been to critique and unpick cliched representations of the heroic and sublime often associated with the Antarctic, to expose the delicacies of exploration and exploitation. Wit has been a key tool to help us see what is really there - from the almost nothingness of whiteout to the colour and gritty reality of scientific work in a challengingly inhospitable environment.

{Nieves penitentes} brings Noble full circle. It is her reverential and original homage to Antarctica's power and history.




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