In 2005 Dick Frizzell was chosen to embark on the Invitational Artist Programme in Antarctica. Established in 1996, the Artists to Antarctica programme is a joint initiative between Antarctica New Zealand and Creative New Zealand. The programme encourages New Zealand artists in all disciplines to explore Antarctica through their work, in the hopes of increasing New Zealander's understanding the value and global importance of Antarctica.
Before embarking on his visit Frizzell said, “I am really looking forward to letting my instincts loose. The signage, the hut exteriors… any clumping of base architecture in the snow... tractors in the whiteness ... I have a haunting image in my head of those massive Russian ice-breaker/cruise ships with their top heavy super structures looming out of the ice ... painting that would be a hell of a statement about how we put ourselves in these awesome environments.”
While in Antarctica, Frizzell soaked up the distinctive environment and architecture that existed there. Frizzell ‘s title for this exhibition, An Event of One, materialised from the practice of each visiting party to Scott Base being allocated a number and being known as an “event”, no matter how small the group. Being the only person in his “group”, Frizzell was subsequently known as “An Event of One”.
While there Frizzell initially documented “graffiti” at the American base camp, but soon turned his attention to the huts where the past inhabitants had lived, and now departed. The resulting works are reflective and brooding, evoking a sense of isolation in an unforgiving environment. Isolation is particularly manifest in the darkened empty interiors scattered with essential items necessary to basic human survival; food, warmth and shelter. As a body of work the paintings become a testament to the will of human endurance.
Paintings in the exhibition such as Shackleton’s Stove recognise the plight of polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. In December 1914, Shackleton set sail with a 27-man crew, under harsh ice conditions, to accomplish the first crossing of the Antarctic continent. Their vessel, Endurance, became trapped in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea, and drifted for 10 monthslocked within the ice, until the pressure crushed the ship. With meagre food, clothing and shelter, Shackleton and his men were stranded on the ice floes, where they camped for five months, before the long and arduous journey of relocating all of the men to Elephant Island. This was eventually achieved some 21 months after their initial departure. Although the expedition withstood the most incredible hardship, not one member of the 28-man crew was lost.