A new stamp issue by Australia Post showcases the work of the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship program, by featuring photography, painting, music performance and sound recording on the icy continent.
Each of the arts has received its own stamp and is represented by images of former Arts Fellows working in Antarctica.
Music on the ice
Harpist Alice Giles AM illustrates musical performance. In 2011, she celebrated the centenary of the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition with live harp performances at Davis and Mawson research stations.
“The Fellowship was a turning point, and definitely the most exciting creative event in my life,” Ms Giles said.
“I’ve continued to use the material in many different ways ever since, including ongoing Musica Viva in Schools performances, which brings the inspiration of the adventure to primary school students.”
Living in a small country town, Alice said she has been looking forward to casually asking for the new stamps from her local post office.
“Being on a stamp is just incredible – I still have to pinch myself it’s really happening,” she said.
“Surely this is the first time a harp or a harpist has appeared on an Australian stamp, bringing an instrument often seen as an outlier into the broader public view.”
Sound recording is portrayed by Associate Professor Philip Samartzis, from the School of Art at RMIT University, who has twice travelled to Antarctica to explore the impacts of extreme environmental conditions on people.
“A lot of what I do is trying to capture the experience of working at a unique research station. It’s as much about the people as the environment they work in,” Assoc Prof Samartzis said.
As an artist and academic, he uses sound recordings and the latest microphone technology to document the Antarctic soundscape and how it shifts with time.
“As the habitat changes as a result of the changing climate, the sound recordings change. The sounds speak for themselves.”
Assoc Prof Samartzis said he is delighted with the stamp issue, not only as it recognises the importance of the Arts Fellowship, but also because he used to work as a postal clerk.
“I used to sell stamps. Now I’m on one,” he laughed.
Images of the great white south
Photographer David Neilson, another two-time Fellow, travelled south to Mawson research station in 1990-91 and 2004-05, and produced striking photos for his book Southern Light.
“A number of creative photographers have received Arts Fellowships over the years, and I feel honoured to be representing our craft on this postal celebration of the program,” Mr Neilson said.
“It was a privilege to have been given the opportunity to experience and photograph the ‘great white south’, and I think the Arts Fellowship program has played a valuable role in increasing people’s understanding of Antarctica.”
En plein air
Painter and sculptor John Kelly braved the Antarctic elements for three months in 2013 to create a series of 57 oil paintings on location, responding directly to the landscape. His paintings have been exhibited internationally and published in his book Beyond Woop Woop.
“The Arts Fellowship enhanced my life with the sheer exhilaration of experiencing an ice breaking ride to one of the most dangerous and beautiful landscapes in the world,” Mr Kelly said.
“I have always wanted my art to have a stamp of approval. Now I have the ultimate one.”
Australia Post’s Group Manager Philatelic Michael Zsolt acknowledged the contribution of the Antarctic Arts Fellowship program, which has enabled artists and writers to travel south and create works inspired by their experiences and insights since 1984.
“Through their Antarctic-inspired creations, Fellows have highlighted the beauty and wonder of the icy continent, and promoted the work of the Australian Antarctic Program to Australians and the world,” he said.
The Arts Fellowship program stamps join a range of other Australian Antarctic Territory stamp issues, including ‘RSV Nuyina’ in 2020, ‘Centenary of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911-14)’ in 2014, ‘East Antarctic Deep Sea Creatures’ in 2017, ‘Mapping the Australian Antarctic Territory’ in 2019, and ‘Wyatt Earp Expedition 1948’ in 2020.
The Australian Antarctic Territory: Arts Fellowship Program stamp issue is available from 16 March 2021, from www.auspost.com.au/stamps, and participating Post Offices, while stocks last.
The annual Arts Fellowships are made possible by the Australian Antarctic Division with support from ANAT, an Australian organisation that creates opportunities for artists to work with art, science and technology partners. The Fellowships are awarded through a national application and selection process. Expressions of interest are currently open until Friday 26 March 2021.