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GALLERY: Artist hopes to raise a smile with 'millions' of penguins

GALLERY: Artist hopes to raise a smile with 'millions' of penguins

Friday 15 March 2019

GALLERY: Artist hopes to raise a smile with 'millions' of penguins

After spending six weeks capturing icy scenes in the Antarctic, a local artist has turned his brush to the many humorous faces of penguins in a new exhibition bringing their waddling world to life... in 36 different ways.

From films and music to sculptures and paintings, Nicholas Romeril's new display of artwork, mixed with VR experiences, has only taken six weeks to complete and this evening goes on display at Jane James Studio and Gallery.

Last year, Romeril spent six weeks in the Antarctic, onboard HMS Protector, as an artist in residence for Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute. He traveled 3,500 miles, encountering "many colossal mountains, blue icebergs and millions of penguins" during his journey and capturing thousands of images of them.

Video: Romeril talks about his new exhibition.

Upon his return, Romeril started working on large-scale paintings of the frozen landscapes and created nearly 50 paintings showing the incredible diversity of the glaciers. 

A selection of them went on display in December at Private and Public Space as part of the 'Icebreakers' exhibition, ahead of a large-scale exhibition opening at Chris Beetles Gallery in London in April.

After producing the "serious body of work" for 'Icebreakers', Romeril wanted to have some fun and spent six weeks painting... penguins. In total, he created 36 penguins - in colour or black and white, a sculpture, four movies, and a soundtrack for an exhibition he aptly named 'Millions and Millions of Penguins'.


Pictured: 'Puff' is one of the 36 paintings included in the new exhibition. 

“Everyone loves penguins and they are really funny, they walk silly, they have human attributes and they couple together," Romeril explained. 

During his time in the Antarctic, Romeril noticed that on the Falkland Islands, the penguins are a big tourist attraction and see so many humans that they are used to their presence. 

"Penguins don't have many land predators, so they weren't scared, you could walk straight up to them and they would waddle away, but it would be more 'you're in my space', it wouldn't be, 'Oh my god, you're gonna eat me!'," Romeril said.


Pictured: 'Looking at you' is one of the paintings Romeril created by sticking paper to the canvas.

Romeril explained he tried to produce "a spontaneous outcome" and to give "a feel for the movement, shape and texture". To do so, he used white ink on black paper. He also stuck paper on the canvas to give the painting "a bit of history and texture".

"It makes it a little harder to create accurate paintings, which I’m trying to avoid in this exercise.”

Some of the more eye-catching pieces in the exhibition include bright fluorescent paint in background. Brought together, the paintings show the different aspects of a penguin's character - boisterous, attention-seeking, and affectionate.


Pictured: 'Millions and Millions of Penguins' includes a sculpture, films and a VR experience.

Some of them appear to have been caught in the middle of a pose, or about to break into dance. Romeril wanted his penguins to be "humorous" and that is certainly achieved - it is hard to look at the waddling animals without smiling.

The films and virtual reality experience included in the exhibition were created from the footage Romeril captured during his Antarctic adventure. He took a VR camera with him on the HMS Protector and recorded footage of himself, colonies of penguins and the glaciers. Local company Flux then used the footage to turn it into a virtual reality experience.

Gordon Bennie, the Director of Concentric, the sponsors of the exhibition, commented: "Nick's art highlights the beauty and fragility of our environment, which is increasingly under threat from humans and our activities."


Pictured: Waddling, dancing or staring, the penguins have many attitudes.

"We are now aware that destructive habits are altering the dynamics of our planet and whilst these problems can seem insurmountable, we can all make an impact," he added.

The exhibition opens tonight at the Jane James Studio and Gallery and will be open until 23 March.

“if anyone wants to come, it is well worth it.” Romeril said. "I want the public to feel happy and to have a laugh, this is all about having a laugh.”

GALLERY: A sneak peek of the new exhibition...

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