Basharat Bashir

Winter and Art

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In western art depiction of snowy landscapes began in 15th century when artists moved from religious subjects to plein- air landscape paintings. Snow fascinates people and to preserve such astonishing phenomenon Artists use the quality of grey winter light to create special winter atmosphere. The recent developments in art have provided us with a variety of new trends to celebrate and creatively use snow not as a subject but as a medium to create art. All around the world where there is snow there are snow festivals where artists and art students create astonishing snow sculptures.

Snow sculpture or snow art is a sculpture form comparable to sand sculpture or ice sculpture in that most of it is now practiced outdoors, and often in full view of spectators, thus giving it kinship to performance art in the eyes of some. The materials and the tools differ widely, but often include hand tools such as shovels, hatchets, and saws. Snow sculptures are usually carved out of a single block of snow about 6–15 ft (1.8–4.6 m) on each side and weighing about 20 – 30 tons. The snow is densely packed into a form after having been produced by artificial means or collected from the ground after a snowfall.

There are many countries around the world that hold national and international snow sculpture events to promote art and tourism as well celebrate the winter. In Canada for example since 1973 there has been an international snow sculpture contest during the Quebec City Winter Carnival and more recently the Winterlude celebrations (in Ottawa) have had snow sculpture events.

China and United States have also been organizing Snow Sculpture festivals. In China Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is celebrated each winter since its beginning in 1963 in Heilongjiang. Although it was interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution, but International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been resumed and was announced as an annual event at Zhaolin Park on January 5 in 1985.

In United States the Saint Paul Winter Carnival which hosts snow and ice carving competitions is the oldest annual winter carnival in the world, with the first one being held in 1886.

The annual Winter Carnival at Michigan Technological University has been a tradition since 1922. These sculptures are not carved from a single block, but rather many blocks made over a month. For this reason, they can grow quite large (Up to the regulated 28 feet tall and sometimes over 80–123 feet long). Each year a theme is given for the winter carnival and the statues are created in the set theme. Student groups compete against each other in different divisions. Many U.S. states hold their own competitions with a national event being held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin each year.

Frankenmuth, Michigan hosts a massive snow and ice sculpture festival in late January with teams traveling to carve from all over the globe. Frankenmuth’s Snowfest consists of many ice carving competitions and snow sculpting competitions at elementary, high school, state, national, and international levels.

The Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado began in 1990. A group of local snow sculptors called Team Breck, which was part of the Colorado State Snow Sculpture Championships held in Breckenridge, joined with the city and Breckenridge Ski Resort to begin an annual competition. In 2009 teams from China, Spain, the Netherlands and other countries competed. The winner was Team Canada – Yukon, led by sculptor Donald Watt.

One of the famous and oldest snow sculpture La statue de la Résistance par Falguière (The statue of the Resistance by Falguière) was a 9-foot tall snow sculpture 8 December 1870 by Alexandre Falguière during the Siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War. Falguière himself was a member of a National Guard company comprising many artists and intellectuals.  Falguière  and Felix Philipoteaux, assisted by many others members of the company, erected the statue in a few hours, to symbolize French resistance to Prussia.

Apart from using snow as a medium to create enormous sculptures there are some artists like Simon Beck who uses snow to create murals. Born on 19 August 1958 Beck is a British snow artist and a former cartographer referred as the world’s first snow artist. Primarily known for his landscape drawings and sculptures created from snow and sand Beck first started making his snow drawings in 2004. He used to place a marker in an open patch of snow, a nucleus around which he would chart a series of equidistant points, then he would connect the points with his own tracks and patterns would emerge.

His work appeared in new media after he completed installations at Banff National Park in Alberta and Powder Mountain, Utah. He later participated in Minnesota’s annual snow festival, “The Great Northern”.

Born in London Beck, obtained his civil engineering degree from the Oxford University, and later worked as a cartographer until he left cartography around 2009. After leaving cartography he wholly and solely turned himself to large-scale snow drawings. He creates artwork by walking over a mile on snowshoes which continues for around ten hours in completing an artwork. Sometimes, he walks about 30 miles for completing a single work from snow and uses compass to measure steps needed to complete geometrical snow designs. Over the time his drawings grew more and more complex and enormous in size covering hundreds, then thousands of square feet. His largest piece to date was the size of six soccer fields. It took him 32 hours across four days to complete.

Becks uses social media to share his work and In 2010 he launched a Facebook page with over 284,000 followers, whereon pictures of his drawings gained widespread attention online.

Simon Beck has created about 330 drawings of snow and 120 of sand as of 2020. Some of his artwork has been commissioned by the associated organizations or art societies around the world. In 2016, a short documentary titled Simon Beck – Snowartist was created which revolves around his artwork. The film first appeared during a short film showcase of the National Geographic.


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