Posted on March 27, 2015
Glenn Morris' adventures in the Arctic inspire his sculptures.
Sculptor-adventurer: Glenn Morris
Glenn’s life story is probably typical in that it was nothing like a straight line. He studied sculpture, and was accepted at the Royal Academy after acquiring a first class degree, but decided he had to feed his young family, and taught pottery for a few years. Later, following a divorce, he ran a successful tree surgeon company in Kent called Down to Earth Trees, and the appeal of the wild and his taste for rock climbing and mountaineering eventually took him to Eas Greenland.
Hooked by the Arctic, he returned time and again, attracted by the wilderness, the beauty of the frozen landscape, and his growing friendship with the Inuits.
He now divides his time between Kent, Wales where he sculpts and lives with his partner Clare and the Arctic.
When Brontë and I first arrived at his house lost in the middle of the Welsh hills, on a sunny March morning, Glenn was working on a marble sculpture reminiscent of the shape the ice takes as it melts.
The house, lost in the Welsh hills
Glenn working outside
Showing a narwhal tusk
As we walked through his workshop, he couldn’t resist taking down a kayak he’d built with a friend in Norway, based on those used by the Inuits, a light, fuselaged wooden frame with canvas all around and a hole to slide the body in. That was a kayak used by men for hunting: they’d plant a spear in a seal, with a rope attached to it with a balloon made out of animal stomach to keep the seal afloat. Glenn explained how men and women play very different roles, equally critical and indispensable. Unfortunately as modern life is reaching the Arctic, the traditional life style is being lost and the Inuits now live in pre-fab accommodation, a bit lost between two very different ways of life.
Glenn’s experience of the Arctic clearly shaped his outlook on life: he explained how climate change is so much more palpable there, as houses sink into the permafrost, sledges break through the ice killing people he sometimes knew, and whole new sea routes can be sailed by kayak where it was once all ice. He shares “about the first time that the sea ice had allowed shipping through the North West Passage: It was in 2008 and we saw the first cruise ship arrive at Cambridge Bay”.
In 2007-2009, Glenn led a 4,500 miles expedition by canoe, dogsledge and sea kayak, linking Inuit schools with British schools, covered by the BBC and related here: http://www.arcticvoice.org. Setting off from Yellowknife, they canoed the Great Slave Lake, then down the Mackenzie River to Inuvik, kayaked the Northwest
The living fossil" at the National Botanic Garden of Wales
Passage via Tuktoyaktuk, Paulutuk, Coppermine, Bathhurst inlet, Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven. Glenn then dogsledged with an Inuit friend round the northern end of Baffin Island from Iglulik to Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet.
His library contains many books on ecology and climate change, and countless photographs from his travels. His cottage is an Aladdin’s cave of Arctic artifacts: the snug hide of a Musk Ox, gorgeous Inuit statuettes, a sleeping bag fit for Arctic temperatures, a narwhal tusk found discarded on the ground.
The Arctic also inspires his work: his current pieces reflect on the passage of time.
His piece 'Osmunda regalis' (the Living Fossil) in the “Bar Code” exhibition at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, represents the fossil of the Royal Fern, a plant that hasn’t changed in 350 million years (Swedish scientists found DNA of the plant going back that far). The work is in Kilkenny Limestone, a very hard stone that carves more like marble than limestone.
We’re very excited that “Out of Nature” is inspiring him to create a piece on the same theme of time, involving an endangered species. We also look forward to hearing Glenn give a talk about his Arctic adventures and how the insight they give him influences his work.
In the Arctic
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