Follow in Shackleton’s footsteps through Dominic Harris' digital art

Words by
Andy Morris

17th March 2022

Endurance: The Polar Studies at the Halcyon Gallery explores a fragile and foreboding landscape

Artist Dominic Harris showing at Halcyon Gallery

Presented by Halcyon Gallery

When Dominic Harris first began his series of digital scenes celebrating Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to the Antarctic, the explorer’s ship Endurance was still lost at sea, unrecovered for 108 years. That all changed on 5 March when the wreck of The Endurance, Shackleton’s ill-fated schooner, was discovered in the Weddell Sea at a depth of 9,869 ft. At this point Harris’ work has only been on display at London’s Halcyon Gallery for less than a fortnight.

Endurance Colony by Dominic Harris artwork

“Seeing these new photographs of the submerged Endurance only heightens the story and legend of the incredible voyage for me” explains Harris. “The Endurance remains a symbol of humankind’s perseverance to explore, but also acts as a timely reminder to reflect on the impact we are having on our host planet.”

Endurance Mount Hope by Dominic Harris artwork

Endurance explores humanity’s impact on these polar landscapes. Weaving an interactive narrative across four scenes, each screen studies unique features which can be interacted with by touch. The level of detail is astonishing: from pods of killer whales, to a waddle of penguins,  the passage of the sun and moon creating atmospheric, painterly light effects across the sky. The perspective shift from the heights of  Mount Hope to the atmospheric depths below the ice shelf.  When the conditions are right, a “Brocken spectre” can even be witnessed – an elongated shadow of the viewer reminding us of the impact of own individual choices. What strikes you first when seeing the work is the scale - each is over two metres tall and when arranged as a four feel like a tantalising portal into a calmer more delicate world.

Endurance Polar Bears by Dominic Harris artwork

Trapped by ice during Shackleton’s 1915 quest to reach the South Pole, the expedition waited 10 months for the ship to thaw, only for The Endurance to be crushed by moving sea ice and sink beneath the waves.  Remarkably, Shackleton and a small crew managed to sail 800 miles in small boats to South Georgia and return to rescue the men he left behind. All of the crew survived and their story of hardship and heroism has been the subject of numerous books, films and television serials.

Endurance Underwater artwork by Dominic Harris

Harris, however, preferred to go back to the original source material, the first hand accounts from the crew.  “Reading the journals of Sir Ernest Shackleton, I was struck by the way he described the force of nature closing in on his ship. But now more, than a century since that voyage, it feels as if there has been a role reversal, and now it is the environment that’s being threatened by human touch.”

Endurance: The Polar Studies by Dominic Harris is now showing at Halcyon Gallery, 144-146 New Bond Street, London.