Born in Melbourne in 1960, Stephen Eastaugh completed a BA in Fine Arts at Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts before being awarded a Certificate of Achievement at the University of Oslo. He also completed a Diploma of Education at the University of Tasmania.
Stephen has held more than sixty solo exhibitions since 1987, with venues in Melbourne, Sydney, Broome, Amsterdam, Sofia, Paris, Hong Kong, Manila, Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Antarctica.
His group exhibitions number more than one hundred and have included:
Australian National Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Modern Art, Heide, and other regional and commercial galleries in Australia and overseas, many of which hold collections of his work.
Stephen was the first arts fellow to ‘winter-over’ in Antarctica. He returned from his year on the ice in December 2009. During his year he produced a major body of paintings, kept a web diary, gave radio interviews and researched and drafted an Antarctic artist’s book.
Stephen wrote the following just before his departure from Antarctica:
As the first Australian Antarctic Arts Fellow to Winter-over I feel weathered and a little burnt-out but certainly very grateful for this unique experience.
Living in a place with no rain, family, money, shops, police, grass, rivers, streets, animals, neon signs, crowds, sex, flowers, strangers, trees nor mobile phones in a climate not designed for humans for eleven months could make slipping back into one of the busy continents rather bewildering but I do have places to go and people to meet as well as many exhibitions to arrange. The long woolly beard will sadly have to go unless I wish to join some bikers club.
I may look scruffy but I have been productive as I have 200 paintings and 150 works on paper as well as far too many photographs of ice and penguins as cargo.
How to describe this winter-over experience? It is not easy to sum up one whole year anywhere but I shall try. I can say that this year has been more a charm than a hex and definitely a long, stupefying intense spell that has been extremely demanding but extraordinarily worthwhile.
Experiences are often rather rich on the Ice. Captain Scott in 1911 wrote in his final diary — “Great God! This is an awful place.” I understand his dire predicament 98 years ago but today the icecap is dotted with experienced people armed with technology and Antarctica seems not so awful but it certainly does generate an abundance of awe. Over the next few years I shall attempt to display bits of that awe.
A self-published limited edition artist’s travelogue written at Mawson station over the winter of 2009 was launched in a number of cities over 2012.
Headhome: Antarctic sculpture garden
For years, an enigmatic, weathered face has gazed northwards from a pile of dark rocks close to the meteorology building at Davis Station. It is roughly carved from a squared length of Oregon timber, the work of an unknown expeditioner some time in the late 1970s. It was moved to its present location in 1993 when building operations threatened its former site close by. This poignant face in its harsh surroundings, facing homeward across the ocean, provided inspiration this summer for the creation of a unique, Antarctic sculpture garden.
In the summer of 2002–03, Stephen Eastaugh was artist in residence at Davis, a position made possible by the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship. Every year, through this program artists and writers have a chance to visit Antarctica, and to apply their particular skills and perceptions to our understanding of this wonderful place.
While he was at Davis, Steve produced many small, two-dimensional art works, using scrap timber as well as more conventional materials to capture the essence of this wild place and the transient human footprint upon it. Most of these works were displayed at a unique art show at Davis before he left. Other, larger pictures were developed after his return to Australia.
Not all of Steve's art was exported from Antarctica when he departed. He left behind a sculpture garden, based on the wooden statue that was already at the site. The garden occupies a picturesque setting near the blue meteorology building, overlooking a usually-frozen sea, with low, rocky islands beyond a channel, and gleaming icebergs along the horizon.
It has no plants, of course, although in late summer, moulting Adélie penguins may be seen there. Usually it is deserted, quiet, peaceful. In this out-of-the-way corner of Davis, the sculpture garden provides a place of serenity, reflection, beauty and fun, contrasting with the functional reality of the rest of this Antarctic station.
Towards the end of his sojourn at Davis Stephen Eastaugh described the project:
Over the past few weeks I have been working on a number of small wood, fabric and metal sculptures. It is a rare event for me to work in three dimensions but this is a rare place, and I was fascinated by an artwork I found here. Some years ago an unknown expeditioner carved a head from a weathered wooden pole, and planted it in a pile of rocks. It sits sadly overlooking the bay towards a home somewhere in the far north.
My hope is to create an Antarctic sculpture garden by tempting others to construct more totems. The idea is to create some other vertical structures in this environment besides the antennas, flagpoles and windsocks situated all about the station. The first totem made was a mini sleeping container (lets call it a ‘bonsai donga') with a rather rough head-like appearance. Headhome is the working title for the entire series.
Can home be situated in one’s head? As a person who has led a contemporary nomadic lifestyle for many years I certainly hope so. Internally is where I have stored my lack of possessions and often I have luxuriated in a cosy private time-out place somewhere behind my eyeballs. Travel has somehow turned into dwelling after twenty years of jumping from place to place. Home has drastically shrunk: transformed into a fluid concept that’s easy to move. Antarctica will be home for the little sculptures I make but it cannot be my home.
Establishment of the sculpture garden was given official blessing via the environmental preliminary assessment (PA) process in April 2003. In the garden there are four Eastaugh sculptures, in addition to the original wooden head.