This page is under construction. The intention is to highlight the work of artists living and or working in Scotland addressing issues of arts and ecology. Artists have been asked to provide a short introduction to their work and a link to their own web site. (Artists are listed alphabetically.)
If you would like to be included on this page, please email
chris ‘at’ fremantle ‘dot’ org
23rd March 2010. I am English. Two memories that define ‘eco’ for me are:
in school making drawings for ‘alternative’ transport proposals (Loughborough, c. 1997);
as an undergraduate (Ruskin, fine art 2006) sitting on bean bags my friend Nick Hatfull, now a painter making me understand the seriousness of climate change.
As a contemporary artist and writer living in Scotland, and studying for a practice-led PhD (‘Curating the Farm’ with Gray’s School of Art and supported by Harper Adams University College, Shropshire), the tribulations of being young as well as the pleasure of life is at the heart of my practice. If we look back to the Great Poets who foresaw the effects of bad agriculture, pollution & even some might argue ‘global warming’, what have they to offer to a generation still living here?
These are some of the things I’m thinking about today.
My work is primarily sculptural but I often begin making work with a particular site or context in mind. Making work often feels like a process of archaeology – peeling back layers of meaning towards some abstract truth. I feel compelled to make work that attempts to address issues relating to ecology as these are among the most interesting and urgent we face today. How should we live in the world and how can art help inform our attitudes and outlook?
‘What we observe is not nature itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning’
Werner Heisenberg, physicist
My current work takes the form of video, sculpture and installations which are experiential in nature and comprise the use of sound, movement and illusion, generally through simple material means and the use or close observation of existing objects or recognisable materials. Another strand to my practice includes drawing, digital photography and writing.
Exploring scientific, philosophical and emotional means of understanding the natural world and our uneasy place within it, my work references natural phenomena, from cloud formations to small scale events such as moth navigation, subatomic bonds or the motion of soundwaves in water. These phenomena are presented in subjective and metaphorical ways so they are open to multiple interpretations. Slipperiness of meaning and uncertainty are deliberately cultivated as a means to explore the active nature of perception. Through drawing and photography I reference the natural structures of growth and swarming, such as the geometry of soap bubbles, sponges, tree roots, or swarms of midges. Through writing I am developing my understanding of frameworks such as deep ecology, ecofeminism, eco-phenomenology and the aesthetics of natural environments, as a philosophical underpinning to my practice.
Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion are Scottish artists’ who have worked in collaboration since 1993. The Dalziel + Scullion studio creates artworks in photography, video, sound and sculpture that explore new artistic languages surrounding the subject of ecology. They have been selected for important national and international exhibitions including the British Art Show and the Venice Biennale and have been awarded numerous awards and prizes including being short-listed for the international Artes Mundi Prize.
Dalziel + Scullion regularly collaborate with musicians, naturalists, philosophers and scientists making artworks that visualise aspects of our shared environment from alternative perspectives often questioning how we speak about and interpret our relationship with the rest of nature. In many of their works they seek to re-establish and re-evaluate our engagement with the non-human species we live alongside.
The studio has had an ongoing belief in collaboration and has made works with the musician and composer Craig Armstrong, sound artist Mark Vernon, architects Sutherland Hussey, Graham Hutton, Acanthus Architects and botanist Hugh Ingram. Collaborations have also emerged from commissions from organizations such as the Department of Geography Royal Holloway University of London, Scottish Natural Heritage, The Forestry Commission, The Science Museum London and The Botanical Gardens, Dundee. Dalziel + Scullion curated and organized the More Than Us event and Symposium involving some of the most renowned inspirational thinkers and speakers on ecology and the environment including Mark Lynas, Jay Griffiths, John Lister-Kaye and the American philosopher and ecologist David Abram. Matthew and Louise are active teachers and are frequently invited to speak at conferences and symposiums on the subject of art and ecology or art and the environment.
Further information see
Caroline Dear’s work explores our changing relationship with nature and the natural world. She enjoys unearthing marks of past human presence within a landscape, expressed through a particular plant or a shadow imprint on the land. She likes to use the materials of a place, pushing them to their structural limits and working with materials in new ways. Caroline’s work has an apparent simplicity, which draws you in to feel deeper the land and place around you.
I see my work as an exploration of our inter-relationships with the spaces and places we build and inhabit, recognising that these ecological interactions are not one-way – that even as we seek to understand or manipulate our environments, we are shaped and informed by them in complex and often un-noticed ways.
My practice is context-specific and usually generated in response to a physical site. While it is not medium -specific, I frequently work in ephemeral media such as performance, projected imagery and sound, which I see as counters to the comparative solidity and stability of concrete matter.
I regularly work in partnership with artist and technical consultant Nick Millar. The current focus of our collaborative practice is on human/water interactions.
I am also a lecturer/researcher in the School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow, Scotland.
My artwork is about animal and human lives in an unsteady world – experimental geographies using both zoological archives and field-work. Zoological specimens lead to a series of works,”Biogeographies”. My fieldwork project is titled “present tense”: it is about culture and agriculture -how people, animals, land, and climate adjust to each other in the Scottish Borders.
The underlying intention of my work is to address the human perception and understanding of land and landscape. Each project works on a different aspect of this, taking either the site and location of the work or a selected concept, source or experience as starting point. The work is expressed mainly with digital and photographic image, video, sound and word. Living on an organic family farm in Perthshire, I am acutely aware of differing perceptions, needs and use value of land. My aim is to visually and aurally stimulate and question understanding and awareness beyond our usual personal experiences of this place. I am also actively involved in developing contemporary art in rural areas through artist networking and events: addressing the geographic divide and traditional hierarchy of importance between urban and rural cultural experience.
‘Man’s one method, whether he reasons or creates, is to half-shut his eyes against the dazzle and confusion of reality.’ 
‘Some time ago a distinguished Scottish writer, broadcasting on the efforts of his bethren, suggested that our Scottish countryside had nothing more to give the indigenous novelist. As if it were a place that had been skinned, leaving the void beneath. How effectively Mitchell proceeded to show that so far hardly even the skin had been affected!’ 
 Robert Louis Stevenson – Ian Bell, p.283
 Belief in Ourselves -Neil Gunn; (Nationalism in Writing [on Lewis Grassic Gibbon]) p.88
A floating garden island which cleans water and provides a home for birds, a tide pool painting created using the watery flow of paint, a dialogue between teenagers about climate change; My art addresses the relationship between humanity and nature, in oneness and in antagonism. I am motivated by a sense of urgency about the unraveling of our environmental systems. I am interested in the power of art to express this fulcrum, the grace of connection, the denial and disconnection from dissociation with the natural world, the hope of mitigation and the struggle of adaptation that is part of the present experience. Through painting, photography, video and community installations I depict personal ecologies, our connections and disconnections with ourselves, each other, and nature. I have an art studio in Findhorn, Scotland and I am a partner in the ecological design company Biomatrix Water with projects around the world.
“Donald Urquhart’s work is both subtle and enduring. Since he began to make an impact as an artist in the early 1990s, in his art he has consistently explored the complexity inherent in simplicity.
At the heart of all of it is an appreciation of landscape and a need to respond to it. Not landscape as a simple picture, but landscape as a way of thinking, a way of reflecting on our own state. In this sense his work is profoundly ecological: it helps to give us a sense of our own place within nature, our place within our habitat as human beings.”
Prof. Murdo MacDonald, Donald Urquhart and the Sanctuary, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, 2003
Over the last few years my art work has become more explicit in addressing ecological and environmental issues. This is partly as a result of research work I have done, outside of the visual arts, in association with an environmental consultancy, but also because I feel there is an increasing urgency of need to address the exponentially growing environmental degradation we are causing. Many of my artworks relate to my own interaction with other organisms within the local ecology of which I am part. Like every other aspect of our current culture, environmentalist doctrine is often dominated by those who do not have a regular deep experience of directly interacting with nature. Much of my sympathy lies with those who do interact directly with nature, in particular subsistence hunters and farmers. Such people are often in the invidious position having their livelihood destroyed by oil or other mineral extraction, timber extraction, the spread of industrialised food production, while at the same time having their own traditional and usually sustainable economic activities banned or sabotaged to satisfy a sentimentalised urban projection of the environmental shadow. A classic example being the very negative effect of the anti-fur campaigns of the 80s which had no benign results for bio-diversity or habitat preservation and may be argued to have made ever greater destruction of the Northern ecology even easier for commerce to justify. From an objective point of view fur garments have had several hundred thousand years longer than synthetics to prove their sustainability. It will be obvious to the reader that my writing tends to the polemic. I hope my art does not, but I do hope it sometimes makes people question the orthodox assumptions that exist both inside and outside of the environmentalist camp.
If you would like to be included on this page, please email
chris ‘at’ fremantle ‘dot’ org
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