Former Glasgow Girl ready to be the Arctic Artist

A unique chance to explore the effects of climate change in art will be undertaken by Argyll 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, who lives in Lochgilphead, 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.

She continued: ‘This is such a career highlight for me, and I was so delighted to be chosen. Snow and ice has captivated me and from a young age 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.

Lesley explained: ‘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. 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 having previously lived on the Shetland Islands. ‘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 has a daughter, Ruby, 20, who is studying print-making, and is married to Fergus Murray, the Head of Development and Economic Growth at Argyll and Bute Council. She studied painting at Glasgow School of Art, before taking an MA in Public Art at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee. Lesley is an experienced teacher and lecturer, currently with Argyll College UHI.

She says: ‘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. I’m an experienced wild swimmer too, but I think the water will be too cold for even me!’

‘This will be the artistic trip of a lifetime and I cannot wait.’

Scott Polar Research Institute Museum curator, Charlotte Connelly, commented ‘We’re excited to see what Lesley produces during her residency. Our Artist in Residence project a fantastic way for us to grow our collection of contemporary art, and we’re incredibly proud of all of our artists. I’m particularly interested to see how Inuit print making technologies influence Lesley’s work.’