As part of our Preserving Pasts, Imagining Futures project, the National Galleries of Scotland and National Library of Scotland invited visitors to take part in four creative workshops, both online and in-person. Our aim for these workshops was to encourage people to start thinking, talking and creating art which focusses on Scotland’s relationship with climate change.
Our first online workshop looked at map works from the national collections. These included David Shrigley’s 1997 untitled work of a ‘squiggly’ line maze accompanied by the word ‘Enter’, as well as Alan Davie’s Island Fantasy. Inspired by these works, participants were tasked with creating maps of Scotland however fantastical, hopeful or dystopic, as it may look in the future. They responded with depictions of entire mountains below sea level, leaving only a few survivors to inhabit the peaks, a collage featuring Scottish iconography stuck to a timesheet, and a sketch of St Michael's Mount devoid of herons and almost completely covered by water.
Our family group worked together to create a layered artwork, composed of landscapes, weather and animals. They reimagined the grounds of Modern One in a future where giant bugs lived side-by-side with Scottish lions and humungous jellyfish. The multicoloured sky featured an evil sun shining its orange, yellow and black rays back down to earth, setting fire to plants and animals.
Artist Katharine Aarrestad and Curator Paula Williams of the National Library of Scotland hosted our online workshop entitled ‘It's a grand thing to get leave to live’. Paula walked us through writer Nan Shepherd’s life and legacy, reading snippets from Shepherd’s book The Living Mountain. The group noted how Shepherd’s writing speaks to the idea of belonging and nurturing when immersed in nature, as opposed to conquering and possessing. They discussed the physical role of nature in both Shepherd’s writing and the works that artist Joan Eardley made at Catterline. The harshness and volatility of nature played signifiant roles in the work of both the writer and the painter, conceptually and practically.
The last workshop of the series was a collaborative effort hosted by Katharine Aarrestad and Blake Milteer, curator of the MacKinnon Collection of photographs. Participants were asked to bring along photographs they had taken which they believed related in some way to climate change. One group member presented photos of a ring-necked parakeet; a bird indigenous to India with well-established colonies in every English city. Sightings of this bird have been more common in Scotland in recent years. Evidently, these birds have begun moving north into new habitats as the climate, and Scotland, are getting warmer.