The Somerset artist who traveled the Arctic Circle to paint his polar landscape


A Somerset artist who crossed the Arctic Circle has been awarded a prestigious medal for his paintings of polar landscapes. Backwell’s Nick Jones has been awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s Cherry Kearton Medal and Prize for 2022.

Each year the Royal Geographical Society awards a series of prizes which “recognize extraordinary achievement in geographical research, fieldwork, teaching, policy and public engagement”. The Cherry Kearton Medal and Prize is awarded to “a traveler concerned with the study or practice of natural history, especially those interested in the photography, art, or cinematography of nature” .

Nick was named Artist-in-Residence at the Scott Polar Research Institute in 2018 and embarked on a remarkable two-week journey along the coasts of Greenland and Baffin Island. Since his return, he has been working on several large paintings of light and landscapes of the polar regions, inspired by his travels.

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The medal was awarded to Nick for his “ability to ‘capture the uncapturable’ – the ever-changing play of light on the landscape”. His paintings have always dealt with one main subject – the landscape – from the countryside around his home in Somerset to the arctic landscape of Lapland.

The awards ceremony takes place at the Royal Geographical Society on June 6. Nick said: “Finding ways to evoke the infinite richness of the natural world through painting on canvas has been the great pleasure and passion of my life.

One of Nick Iceberg and Moon’s paintings

“Receiving the RGS Cherry Kearton Award for doing what makes me feel so alive is a wonderful affirmation and a great honor.

“For thirty years, my paintings have dealt with landscape and light. Exploring the rich ground between abstraction and figuration, I attempted to distill and evoke something of the ephemeral beauty of the natural world, in the hope that others might see the world with fresh eyes.

“As my paintings became more spacious and full of light, I found myself drawn to the empty, bright landscapes of the Arctic. I have made five trips to the Arctic Circle, first to Finnish Lapland in pursuit of the aurora, then to Greenland and Baffin Island.

“The residency was an extraordinary life-changing experience and being immersed in the vast arctic space and its numinous light had a profound impact on my work. I hope my arctic paintings will allow others to glimpse and connect with the fragile beauty of this amazing region of our world, on which we all depend for our well-being.

Recent recipients include iconic photographers Steve McCurry and Yann Arthus Bertrand, artists Tacita Dean and Andy Goldsworthy, and, further back, Alastair Fothergill (producer of BBC classics Planet Earth and Frozen Planet) and Sir David Attenborough.

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