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'Norway - Slingsby's Northern Playground'

supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Tiso the outdoor specialist

arts15

November 2003 to 24th February 2004 at The Alpine Club, 55 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3QF

hurrungane september sun

Skagastølstindane (left), Dyrhaugsryggen (centre), Store Ringstind and Soleibotntindane (right)

As a precursor to this exhibition, I wrote the following article for publication in the July 2003 issue of the Alpine Club Newsletter.

View Slingsby Gallery

Norway's Mountain Magic - From a Different Perspective

"Slowly - teasingly - the cloud veil thinned and swirled, momentarily revealing glimpses of the face beneath. Then at last, with powerful presence, the majestic Storen appeared in all her glory."*

At 2403m, Storen (formally known as Store Skagastølstind) is not the highest of mountains. Indeed, being only the 3rd highest peak in Norway it might appear to some to be insignificant. But Storen is enchanted - with a place in history and shrouded in charm (as well as eternal cloud!) she is a jewel amongst many in Norway's Jotunheim mountains. In the last few years I have fallen under their spell, exploring this 'home of the giants' in all weathers. however, my interest in this incredible place is not, as you might expect, as a climber but as an artist.

A quest to understand more about the creation of mountains and the effects of glaciation has become central to my work, beginning through painting the once glaciated landscape of Snowdonia in North Wales. My first visit to Norway in 1996 took me to the spectacular jostedal Glacier (the largest in northern continental Europe) and introduced me to the most beautiful of alpine landscapes in the form of Jotunheimen National Park. This introduction marked the beginning of a continuing love affair for me; one which has formed the main focus of my painting ever since and one which, I predict, will be almost impossible to end.

falketind dark mist

Falketind

Through my exploration of Jotunheimen (albeit a low-ish level one!) I revel in my struggle to portray, in paint, the passion felt by many on visiting this alluring mountain environment. The weather, the seasons and particularly the light are of tremendous influence in my paintings and I endevour to depict a strong sense of place while maintaining representation. From the towering peaks of the Hurrungane range (of which storen is the highest) and those such as Fannaråken (2068m), the Smørstabbtindane and Galdhøppigen - Norway's highest at 2469m, to Falketind (2067m) Uranostind (2157m) and the memurutindane - who could fail to be spellbound by such rugged beauty?

This is exactly what happened to the young Yorkshire man and budding mountaineer William Cecil Slingsby, on his first visit to Norway in 1872. He was captivated by what he saw and by 1876, after repeated visits, he had been attributed several first ascents around Jotunheimen. But it was Slingsby's conquest of Storen on July 21st of that year - a feat previously thought to be impractible - which earned him notoriety, especially in Norway, as an outstanding mountaineer. It is testament to both his skill and the man himself that he affectionately became known as the father of Norwegian mountaineering. But Slingsby's love for the mountains was not purely that of mountaineering. He was also a keen naturalist with a deep appreciation for the alpine environment, always enjoying, as I do, being out amongst it and paying attention to what was around him. Participating in a little watercolour painting too, he would often carry a small box of paints with him on his forays into the mountains. This resulted in sketches of particular peaks (displyed in Norsk Fjellmuseum [the Norwegian mountain museum] in Lom) which presumably he found useful as an aid in his future route planning.

 There is no doubt that my own adventures in Jotunheimen have been greatly enhanced by Slingsby's book "Norway - The Northern Playground". It has proved invaluable to me particularly as a point of reference and has been of great inspiraton in many ways. Sitting with blank canvas before a sheer face of rock waiting for rain to clear and cloud to lift can often be an exceptionally gloomy experience, even to the most upbeat of people. But just a thought about the man who cheerfully wore a dandelion in his button hole and conqured mountains in hob nailed boots is enough to lift my spirits enormously, giving me the will and the strength to sit it out just that little bit longer.

sky from leirvassbu tn
gjertvasstind tn
munkan from djupfjorden afternoon sunshine tn


An exhibition of my work (including 30 new paintings)to be shown at the Alpine Club in late 2003, will describe - in all its moods - the Jotunheim landscape which Slingsby so enjoyed being a part of. Entitled "Norway - Slingsby's Northern Playground" the show will also include several images from further north - on magical Lofoten. Lying just off the Norwegian mainland, beyond the arctic circle and in the land of the midnight sun, these islands were another of Slingsby's (many) favoured areas. Lofoten consists of the most unique, dramatic coastal mountain scenery imaginable and I was lucky enough to visit to paint there in 2001 (supported by Amersham plc and North Cape (Scotland) Ltd.). Undoubtedly a paradise for artists and particularly so for climbers, it is still one of Norway's best kept secrets - though one which Slingsby knew about and was fortunate enough to enjoy. He sincerely and fully embraced all aspects of the Norwegian culture and visited, climbed and regularly took pleasure form Norway's landscape. It is my intention that my exhibition will pay tribute to the undeniable beauty of that landscape, and to Slingsby himself and the considerable and notable achievements which he accomplished there.

Taken from my private journal, July 12 2002, Turtagrø, Norway

© Rowan Huntley 2017  email: rowan@rowanhuntley.co.uk