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Photographer Peer Lindgreen and ice sculptor Duncan Hamilton discuss Shock of the Form II

Image: Peer Lindgreen and Duncan Hamilton, BUG_P1, courtesy of the artists

An impressive four years in the making, photographer Peer Lindgreen and ice sculptor Duncan Hamilton have produced Shock of the Form II, a unique collaboration on the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Coming at a time when humankind’s relationship with nature is more significant than ever, the exhibition uses ice to encourage guests to slow down and appreciate the extraordinary potential of this everyday form.

Ahead of its run at Deptford X Festival’s 2022 fringe, London’s longest-running visual arts festival, Run-Riot caught up with Peer and Duncan to learn more about their inspiration for the piece:


Kerenza Evans: Can you tell us about how this collaboration came to be?

Duncan Hamilton: I first met Peer working on an advertising commission. I was so impressed with the way he approached his work, his meticulous attention to detail and his response to the particular needs of the ice. Then he spotted some of my old tools in the studio - my old chainsaw and Japanese handsaw - and asked if he could photograph them. I ended up freezing the chainsaw in a block of ice. He took the most incredible series of photographs that we made into a book. That was the beginning of it all really, I just knew I wanted to do more work with him, collaborating from the beginning.


Kerenza: What are you hoping guests will take away from the exhibition?

Peer Lindgreen: To discover a new hidden language and fall in love with the poetry of ice, like I have. 

Duncan: And to see how ice can be an incredible artistic medium. But mainly just to stop, and look. Now more than ever it feels like we could all do with stopping all the noise and taking some time, take a breath and see what nature has to say. I’ve spent nearly 50 years working with ice and yet it still surprises me, it continues to teach me new things every day.



Kerenza: Why is ice such a poignant device to explore the relationship between man and nature?

Duncan: We use cubes of ice to chill our drinks in the summer. It forms naturally in the chill of winter. You might say that ice is an unremarkable item: something we’re all very familiar with – but I hope with this exhibition, we show there’s unexpected beauty within ice. At the same time, it can be gone in an instant. When the temperature changes, it can literally disappear before your eyes. So I’d say that the poignancy of using ice in art is how it demonstrates the fragility of nature and the environment. 

Image Peer Lindgreen and Duncan Hamilton, Cr(e)ater_1, courtesy of the artists


Kerenza: Can you tell us a bit about the processes and environment required to create the installation?

Duncan: We often worked together for extended periods in a minus-20ºC shipping container in my studio in south London. Peer would experiment with different light exposures, as I experimented with different ways to manipulate the ice. Changes in light and temperature would lead to naturally occurring fissures and refractions in the ice, sometimes revealing air bubbles, minerals, or mini rainbows of colour. Peer would capture these formations with a camera.


Kerenza: What are the key challenges with your respective mediums?

Peer: Well, my cameras weren’t too happy working at minus-20ºC – nor were my fingers! 

Duncan: You don’t have the luxury of time, ice changes from one second to the next. You can never predict what it will do – how it will respond. I used a blowtorch on “Reign Man” to get the neck so thin. I pushed the medium as far as it could go – often further – one jog of the table and the whole thing would snap. Ice is not a constant medium – it becomes extremely brittle and fragile if it’s too cold and if you move it from the freezer and put it on the table it starts to expand and that causes cracks and bubbles. It throws up all sorts of unpredictable and beautiful results. But sometimes of course, it can be disastrous.

Peer: Each piece threw up its own unique challenges; there was the challenge of the shooting environment, namely the cold, some of the shots were taken in the freezer which was tough and had to be carefully timed. But probably the biggest challenge was the unpredictability of the ice, but this was equally what was exciting about it. The ice was constantly changing. The “Cr(e)ator” series for instance is the same piece of ice taken at different times, with Duncan throwing hot water at it, or dry ice, or using a blowtorch or something. Neither of us ever knew exactly how the ice would react and what the resulting image would look like, and how long I had to take the picture before it all changed again.


Kerenza: Duncan - how did you start your journey into ice sculpture? How has your approach to the art form changed throughout your career?

Duncan: I was working as a sous chef in a London hotel. We had a big banquet on and the head chef asked if anyone could sculpt – he wanted an ice sculpture for the table. No one could, so I volunteered – and that was the start of it all. Chefing is so much more strict and precise, I loved the freedom of sculpting and the immediacy. You can’t be too precious about it – it’s almost like a performance. That was almost 50 years ago. I set up the first ice sculpting company in the UK and we remained the only such company for the next 10 years.


Kerenza: Do you both have plans to collaborate again in the future? 

Peer: For sure, I’ve loved discovering this whole new world of ice. It feels so secret and hidden. When we started working on this project we didn’t know where it was going to lead us and we keep seeing new ways of exploring. I want to play with scale, I’m keen to try some very small intimate pieces, and bring in some colour. I love the way “BUG_P1” turned out – with that one, we flooded wedges of ice with pink-coloured water, causing the ice to fracture and for gasses to bubble and form frozen wing-like shapes. Ice definitely has me hooked. It has a lot to say and we’re both enjoying the conversation very much. 

Shock of the Form II is at no format Gallery as part of Deptford X Festival's 2022 fringe from 16-25 September 2022. To learn more, head here

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