Jörg SCHMEISSER, My first little book from the voyage to the ice on the Aurora Australis. Enlarge 1 /1


Stolp, Germany 1942 – Canberra, Australia 2012

  • Australia from 1976

My first little book from the voyage to the ice on the Aurora Australis. 1999 Place made: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: books, artist's books, ink; paper engraving, printed in blue ink, from multiple polycarbonate sheets; watercolour, gouache and pencil Support: paper

Dimensions: sheet 12.0 h x 57.6 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gordon Darling Australia Pacific Print Fund, 2007
Accession No: NGA 2007.1434.5
Subject: Australia, Book arts: Artist's book
Image rights: © Jörg Schmeisser
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from the artist, Canberra, October 2007.

Noted for his meticulous observation and technique, German-born painter and printmaker Jörg Schmeisser translated the memories of his voyage to Antarctica into a series of poetic works on paper.

Schmeisser’s early career as an archaeological draftsman had taken him to Greece and Israel. After immigrating to Australia in 1976, his later travels included Cambodia, the United States, Israel and Japan, where he now teaches. In the summer of 1997–98 this wanderlust found him sailing to Antarctica on the Aurora Australis as artist-in-residence. As the huge icebreaker carved its way south on its annual resupply trip to Mawson and Davis stations, Schmeisser filled sketchbooks with drawings of the immense icebergs that appeared as the ocean grew colder and darker. These austere monuments and the vastness of the terrain around the Antarctic bases were captured in his precise drawings, which he used to create a series of paintings and prints about this strange frozen dreamscape.

My first little book from the voyage to the ice on the Aurora Australis 1999 contains engravings, and watercolour and gouache paintings about his journey. The long and narrow format gives a sense of a narrative unfurling through the rhythmic rise and fall of the accordion-folded pages. This format echoes the undulations of rolling waves, and indeed many of the pages are stained with blue as though the sea and sky had seeped into the paper itself. Drifting through this are towering mountains of ice, sculpted by the wind into floating cathedrals and crystalline sails. Their crumpled contours are painted in blue and ochre tones or imprinted in broken lines from the staccato stutter of an electric engraver. These swirls of dots and dashes continue into the sky above to form dense arcs of rain and mist. There is a sense of the experience being distilled down to the basic elements of air and water, with Schmeisser’s drawings containing an almost incandescent clarity of vision.

Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax
Gordon Darling Graduate Intern

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra