White - The Cold Island of Spitzbergen. Ilona Wisniewska and Joanna Ciechanowska

30 Jan 2016 – 12 Feb 2016

Event times

10am - 9pm

Cost of entry


POSK Gallery

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Bus 391 190 267 H91
  • Tube Ravenscourt Park

Save Event: White - The Cold Island of Spitzbergen. Ilona Wisniewska and Joanna Ciechanowska

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'White - the Cold Island of Spitzbergen' - promotion of a book written by Ilona Wisniewska with an exhibition of photographs.
'Svalbard - Climate Change' - series of paintings by Joanna Ciechanowska.


The idea for the series of paintings ‘Svalbard - Climate Change’ was formed after two journeys to the Arctic. Central to the concept is the discussion about climate change, which is causing controversy in scientific world and doubts as to the cause and consequences of it.

The result is uncertainty, restlessness, speculative thinking and attempts of finding the culprit to blame, rather then a solution to the problem which seems distant, unclear and disputed, and despite the clear evidence, mostly ignored and questioned.

The six individual paintings: ‘Polar Bear eating Seal’, ‘Whale’, ’Kamchatka Crab’, ‘Arctic Fox’, ‘Bird’, ‘Exploration’ exhibited as one, is an attempt at blurring the borders, disturbing the obvious between the real and the abstract, until the viewer feels restless, uncertain what he is looking at, whilst provoking the need to look further, beyond the painting, beyond the obvious evidence, and  uncovering personal reaction similar to the discussions on climate change; is it really happening or it is only a manipulation of scientific data? Can the Polar Bear or Arctic Fox in the painting really be seen or do they only exist in viewers imagination?

The series of paintings won the Honorary Jury Award in the VI International Biennale of Paitings in Poland, 2011.


‘White. The Cold Island of Spitzbergen’ by Ilona Wisniewska is a book of stories from Spitsbergen, combining the accuracy of reportage with a boisterous literary style. The author, Ilona Wisniewska (a scholar of Polish literature and photographer whose reports from the North are published in the news weekly Polityka), mentions that her husband – who is one of the central characters in White – never tires of reading Hemingway’s stories over and over again. Hemingway’s elegance and restraint, and what could be called “the essence of life” are also to be found in the texts included in White. (And there’s humour too: “We are not sad. In winter we have sexual intercourse – that’s why there are so many pre-schools here, and depression only affects the solitary people who don’t drink.”)

The book describes various mysteries of the North. Its opening and closing texts tell the disturbing story of Galina Lapy, a waitress from the Maxim Gorky cruise ship, who in 1985 jumped overboard near the shore of Spitsbergen into the freezing waters of the Arctic Sea. She was 26 at the time. At the end of the book, we meet Galina again, at her home in Nikopol. Following her miraculous survival, she decided to go back to Ukraine. Thus the mysterious tale of Galina Lapy sets the tone for the many themes in the book, including a desire (or necessity) to escape, or a need for change – of pace, and viewpoint; there is also a longing to start life over again. All these wishes (for a price which she also writes about) can be made to come true on Spitsbergen.

Ilona Wiśniewska has been living on Spitsbergen for five years. Her book ‘White’ combines the awareness of a permanent resident with the passion and curiosity of a recent arrival. Reading it makes you long to start life over again.

– Agnieszka Drotkiewicz - translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones







Exhibiting artists

Joanna Ciechanowska


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