Friday, January 06, 2012

G’ie Me a Spark o’ Nature’s Fire

Back in March 2010 this illustration was used by BBC online to illustrate a series of articles on renewable energy.
 When i was invited to submit ideas for an Exhibition going to Brussels, one of the themes being environment / climate change, it seemed natural to take the story behind this image and develop it further. I produced artwork concept for a comic cover and a one page silent comic strip.

These have been reproduced A1 size high quality prints by Dundee Contemporary arts centre and are currently being exhibited in Brussels at Scotland House, the Scottish Government’s EU office in Brussels.

The press release details by Dr Chris Murray from Dundee University are here;
G’ie Me a Spark o’ Nature’s Fire
Scottish Comics, the Environment and Creativity

On November 30th an exhibition of 24 graphic prints curated by the University of Dundee’s Dr Chris Murray and produced by Dundee Contemporary Arts opened at Scotland House, the Scottish Government’s EU office in Brussels.

Launched by Scottish Sports Minister Shona Robison as part of Scotland House’s St Andrew’s Day celebrations the exhibition, entitled G’ie me a spark o’ nature’s fire, draws on Dundee’s historic association with comics and features newly commissioned prints by well-established and emerging graphic artists from across Scotland.

Comics have long been one of Scotland’s most important cultural and artistic exports. The Glasgow Looking Glass newspaper featured what several scholars believe to be the world’s first modern comic in 1825, and the comics produced by DC Thomson in Dundee for nearly a century have been hugely successful. From the “Big Five”, Adventure, The Rover, The Hotspur, Skipper, and Wizard, which appeared in the 1920s and lasted to the 1960s, to the ongoing popularity of characters such as Oor Wullie and The Broons, (now over 70 years old), DC Thomson has dominated Scottish (and to a certain extent, British) comics production. Their most successful titles, The Dandy and The Beano (launched in 1937 and 1938 respectively) lay claim to being the world’s longest running comics in continual publication (The Dandy beats Superman by one year!).

With this impressive history, it should come as no surprise that Scotland has produced an array of comics luminaries and leading talent. These include comics legends such as Ian Kennedy, Alan Grant, John Wagner (born in Pennsylvania but raised in Scotland), Cam Kennedy, Colin MacNeil, Grant Morrison, Eddie Campbell, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. There’s also Metaphrog, the Scottish/French partnership of John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs, and a vibrant underground scene, with small press and independent publishing, both in print and on the web. This includes Rob Miller, David Tolmie, Ciaran Slavin, Gill Hatcher, Adam Smith, Douglas Noble, Jim Stewart, and a host of others.

This exhibition showcases talent from across Scotland, from well-established figures in the industry to emerging talent. The themes set by the Scottish Government were energy and climate change, the marine environment, research and creativity, and freedom, justice and security, reflecting Scotland’s EU priorities. The responses were varied, but the challenges presented by climate change was a strong theme in the final works, as were the issues raised by the intersection of history, myth and place.

The title of the exhibition, “G’ie me a spark o’ nature’s fire” comes from Robert Burns’ “Epistle to J. Lapraik” (1785). The lines continue, “that’s a’ the learning I desire; then tho’ I drudge thro’ dub an’ mire, at pleugh or cart, my muse, tho’ hamely in attire, may touch the heart”. Here Burn’s answers his detractors, saying that while he has inspiration from nature and love their criticisms cannot touch him. The comics medium is sometimes looked down upon, but the same defence rings true. The creativity that flows from the industry and from the artists and writers who work in the medium speaks for itself, and can, as shown by this exhibition, address important issues such as the environment and identity.
All of the prints featured in G’ie me a spark o’ nature’s fire were produced at DCA Print Studio, where the artists had access to a range of world-class facilities.

Dr Chris Murray, exhibition curator, said: "Scotland has a long tradition of producing great comics writers and artists. In the course of curating this exhibition I have found that there is an incredible amount of energy and creativity in Scottish comics, from legendary figures such as Cam Kennedy, to emerging talent.”

Clive Gillman, Director of DCA, said:

“It’s been very exciting to see the range of original work that these artists have created and to see how our Print Studio has responded in producing such high quality prints for the exhibition in Brussels. It has been a very positive collaboration which has brought together a number of world-class areas of expertise from Dundee.”

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