Preserving Pasts, Imagining Futures | Responses

The National Galleries of Scotland and National Library of Scotland are delighted to present a selection of responses to the Preserving Pasts, Imagining Futures project.

In the run-up to and during the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, Glasgow, 31 October – 12 November 2021 (COP26), the organisations invited visitors to respond creatively to works from the national collections to visualise how Scotland has been and will continue to be impacted by the climate and ecological emergency, unless decisive action is taken.

The views expressed in the submissions and their descriptions are those of the artists and writers, and do not necessarily reflect the policies and views of the National Galleries of Scotland and National Library of Scotland.

S1 Fernhill school, South Lanarkshire Nature and environmental art

This term Fernhill school S1 are looking at the environment and nature, and artists who use nature in the environment, including Andy Goldsworthy, Georgia O’Keeffe and Robert Smithson. S1 have been out in the school environment collecting nature and creating work for homework too, based on artists work to inspire responses to their environment.

Nial Smith Auld Leakie – Venice of the North – flooded Edinburgh map

In this imagined future, climate change has caused the water levels of the world to rise. Scotland’s capital is under water. Many streets have had to be renamed. The Grassmarket is now the Watermarket, the Cowgate now Fishgate. The Scott Monument stands out over the water like a Statue of Liberty near Waverley Quay. All that remains of the parliament is a lighthouse in its name.

Written response: Robert Hume A Clutha Triptych

Julia Clough Land Use in the Outer Hebrides

Inspired by Islands of the West directed by Bill Forsyth, 1972, a film from the National Libraries of Scotland's Moving Image Archive, this collage represents sustainable ways of using land in the Hebrides, including solar farms amongst grazing land, beehives, on and offshore wind energy generation, and rewilding of peatlands and reforesting. Made from found objects, material scraps and a reused frame.

Greta Casacci

This photograph, taken some years ago, is in response to Clyde River basin (Energy). In it, Glasgow is seen from the Necropolis. There is a bust of a man looking at the smoke coming from an industrial chimney. For the photographer, it represents the past looking at the present which is not promising but also the contrast between the beauty of the past which is now dead (symbolised by the necropolis and the winter vegetation) surrounded by ugliness. Another interpretation of it is that the actions of people from the past led us where we are now. The Necropolis was inaugurated towards the end of the industrial revolution in Britain.

The Heap family North Uist

These pictures of Barra and North Uist were taken by the Heap family during their holiday to the outer Hebrides in summer 2021. They go there on holiday every year and often wonder what impact rising sea levels will have. For example the causeways between islands might be covered over, and some of the houses nearest the sea might be washed away.

Written response: Hillary Sillitto, Ian Godden and Dorothy Godden Visions of a smart carbon-neutral Scotland in 2070

Donald Iain McKenzie Machair, Eriskay

This oil is a comment on the fragility of the west coast machair of the Hebrides which is under threat from coastal erosion and the threat of sea levels rising. A tremor shudders the landscape as the crows flap upwards. One of Van Gogh's final paintings was also in the artist's mind - harbingers of ensuing disaster and paths going nowhere.

Allan Lennie Battle of the Sea Gods

The artist has been interested in environmental issues for many years and this print is from the early 2000s. It’s a mash-up of pollution, nature and the arrogance of humanity. The print itself is a lithograph made from a plywood surface so, a slightly more sustainable way of printing a lithograph than stone, aluminium or plastic print surfaces.

James Berry Edinburgh, April 2020 These photographs were taken during the lockdown in Edinburgh in April 2020, when the streets were eerily empty. They allow us to visualise what a city centre without cars could look like.
Sasha Saben Callaghan On Calton Hill
Sasha Saben Callaghan Gorgie Road
Irene Porras Supertree

The photographer thought it was impressive how the tree kept growing despite the fence and despite the humans around trying to put limits to the space and nature. They thought someone should have taken it out earlier, or now, to free the tree, but didn’t know then who could help with it. It broke the ground and managed to survive the iron.

Written response: Amy B. Moreno Profiteer

Donald Bird Torrential rain in Dunbar, October 2021
Collage submitted by Claire Waymark

Written response: Donald Iain McKenzie Birdbrain



Recognising an urgent need to play our part in combating the climate and ecological emergency.

29 October 2021