Jan Senbergs 1986-87

Painting by Jan Senbergs showing a station landscape in Antarctica
Painting by Jan Senbergs
Painting of Heard Island Icon (Admiralty Hut), 1987A painting of Mawson Station A painting of the Vestfold Hills

Jan Senbergs was born in Latvia in 1939. His family emigrated to Australia when he was eleven years old. Jan practiced as a teacher from 1967 to 1980, when he gave up teaching to concentrate on his painting.

Jan Senbergs has held regular one-man exhibitions since the early 1960s. His work is displayed in galleries around the world from the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, to the National Gallery in Washington DC. He has exhibited extensively in Europe, Japan, America and Australia.

Jan travelled to Antarctica on the ice-strengthened ship MV Icebird with the Australian Antarctic Division in 1987 as a participant in the then-titled Antarctic Humanities Program. The ship visited subantarctic Heard Island and a number of stations before returning to Hobart. Jan produced both a series of paintings and a book Antarctic Journey - in collaboration with two other artists - as a result.

Antarctic impression

The opportunity to sail down to the Antarctic in 1987 with the Australian Antarctic Division, aboard the M.V. Icebird was a wonderful experience – even though I was one of the many "JAFAs" onboard (JAFA in Antarctic language means 'just another f.....g academic').

However, as grand and sublime as the Antarctic landscape is – on arrival there I found myself becoming more interested in the human aspect and history of Antarctica.

Of how, once again we are squatting on the edge of yet another continent and bringing our cultural baggage with us. How, for example, we already have an architectural history at our bases – a sequence from the early 50's "donga huts" at the "old quarter" of Mawson through to the recent, shiny and colourful modules up on the hill.

Also, how these days survival in Antarctica is not so much about intrepid trekking anymore, but rather about psychological survival through the "long dark" in close quarters – and also thinking that perhaps the Antarctic has always been populated by a cross-section of adventurers, obsessives, stoics as well as with some enthusiastic and oversized boy scouts…