Art in the Institute

While a line is often drawn between the disciplines of Science and the Arts, much can be gained by walking the line between the two. It may be that scientists feel they can express their research subjects in unique ways through art, or perhaps art helps them gain novel perspectives. Whatever the reason, we have observed over the years that the scientists at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine at the University Glasgow are also a talented group of artists. At Naturally Speaking, we therefore sought to curate a collection of artwork, courtesy of department members. Here, we feature a wide range of pieces, with mediums and techniques ranging from paintings and drawings to three-dimensional pieces, showcasing the wonderful artistic talent within our Institute. We have also included quotes on how the artists described their work in their own words.

First in the collection, we have an illustration by Eleni Christoforou, drawn using ballpoint pen on tea-stained paper.

“I created this piece after finding a washed-up turtle at a beach in Cyprus. I collected the skull, cleaned it up and used it as a reference to produce this drawing entitled ‘Time is Running Out’, having in mind the anthropogenic impact on coastal ecosystems and the plausible extinction of many species if we don’t act promptly.”

Following on from an aquatic to a semi-aquatic species is a gouache painting of a strawberry poison dart frog by Megan Griffiths, painted in March 2021.

“A strawberry poison dart frog, named after the delicious fruit its glossy skin resembles, but definitely not edible!”

Another painting in the collection is of a meadowlark and a sparrow, painted by Eleanor Duncan in May 2020 – using pen and watercolour in this case.

“The meadowlark and the sparrow: two of the birds named in the opening track of Joanna Newsom’s 2006 album ‘YS’. Newsom’s rich lyricism conjures imagery of a wild variety of flora and fauna and has continued to be a source of inspiration to me in regards to appreciating the beauty of the natural world.”

A fellow bird-themed piece takes the form of a linocut by Lucy Gilbert, created in August 2019, titled “Under attack in a blizzard”.
“Great auks (Pinguinus impennis) were the original “penguins” and were the largest of Scottish seabirds. Tragically, they were hunted to extinction, the last breeding pair killed in 1844 in Iceland. Throughout 2019, I drew, painted, collaged or lino-cut a great auk piece every day as a tribute to these magnificent flightless birds. This challenging project also served as catharsis, the cruelty the birds suffered at the hands of man reflecting my own state at that time. Here, a lone great auk is caught in a snow blizzard; sensing its weakness, ravens close in and attack.”

Following on from the previous avian theme we have a piece by Rossella Panarese using white pencil and acrylic paint on black paper, created in December 2019.

“This work is titled “Amore e Psiche”, like the famous statue of the Italian artist Antonio Canova, from which I took inspiration. This drawing represents the instant, full of eroticism and passion, which anticipates the kiss between Cupid and Psyche, whose love has long been forbidden. When I made this drawing, I was fascinated by the beauty of the statue and the story it represents. What I didn’t know at that time, however, is that I would have experienced the same tormented and long separation of the two lovers. Fortunately, I also had the same happy ending.”

Segueing from 2D into 3D art, we have the installation of ‘Treeguard’, created by Mike Rutherford.

“I’ve been having some fun with some outdoor “installations” over the last year or so of lockdown. I am a volunteer for the Woodland Trust and last year before I started work at the Hunterian I spent a lot of time removing used tree guards from trees in the wood near where I live, after accumulating hundreds of them I decided to make a figure to look after the woods. His name is Treeguard and he is made from the used plastic guard tubes with fencing wire connecting his arms and legs, and chicken wire wrapped around his body and head. At various points he has branches and leaves added into the wire. After I installed him at one end of a public wood for a few months I added in his small friends made of single tree guards. I then moved him up through the public wood to my own small patch of woodland where he lives now. At Halloween he got some leftover pumpkins as an offering. He has been seen by many folks and is often photographed and posted online such as here.
He was inspired by the ‘ents’ from Lord of the Rings and when I have enough time I’d love to remake him from wood rather than plastic. Another plan is to make more and build him some family and friends. I may be spending too much time in the woods…”

In a similar fashion to Treeguard, Dorothy McKeegan’s piece created in 2021 also uses materials collected from outside – namely beach-combed seashells from the shores of Tiree.

“I work with shells, pebbles, sea glass and sea pottery – I’m intrigued by objects that are sea worn, shaped by the ocean, and I aim to share my fascination with the strand line and the perfection of what I find there. I enjoy arranging and curating, composing with species, colour and form to create visual interest.”

And to conclude the collection is another three-dimensional piece, this time in the form of knitwear. These pieces by Jana Jeglinski are knitted from Yarn Drops Lima 65% Peruvian Highland wool and 35% Superfine Alpaca ply yarn and were created in 2019 and 2020.

“For me knitting is much more than making a piece of woolen clothing. It is an artistic process that involves continuously challenging and improving my technical skill, carefully choosing colours, types of wool and patterns for a project, spending hours meditatively knitting and the joy of having created something beautiful, durable and practical that keeps my children warm! For complex things like the jumper and cardigan, I modify existing patterns to the colour combinations I like, and I often add some pattern repeats at the sleeves and seams. The jumper, cardigan and hat are knitted in a Nordic yoke style, using a traditional fair technique of only ever mixing two different colours in one row.”

We take our hats off to the breadth of talent within our Institute. The wide-ranging creativity surely contributes to the quality of the science!

This post was compiled by Naturally Speaking team members Eleanor Duncan and Eleni Christoforou.

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