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Dovecot highlights plastic pollution in the sea with Cop26 artwork

Posted: 8th October 2021

To coincide with the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh announces a new exhibition highlighting the damaging impact of plastic on our beaches and in the marine environment.  Featuring over 20 remarkable paintings, this important exhibition draws attention to the need to prevent resin pellets or nurdles from plastic manufacturing (colloquially known as mermaids’ tears) from polluting the environment. At the centre of the exhibition is a new textile commission made by Dovecot in collaboration with Jackson, which features plastic collected by the artist from beaches near his home.


Jackson (b.1961) is one of Britain’s most celebrated landscape painters whose collaborations with environmental charities and pressure groups Surfers Against Sewage, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts, have provided a key platform for environmental issues over the past three decades. His most recent work highlights the need to stem the flow of plastic into the UK’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy safely and sustainably.


Jackson says,

‘Mermaids tears seem to be pertinent as a metaphor for our entire treatment and attitude to the environment at large and indeed for climate change itself. I paint the sea, her ways and guises, her manners and moods, as metaphor and topographical seascape. I see the pollution daily.’


The collaboration between the artist and Dovecot will be shown in Edinburgh at the same time as COP 26, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties taking place in Glasgow on 31 October–12 November 2021. The Dovecot Commission interprets ‘Mermaids’ Tears’, a painting made by Jackson in 2016 for the pressure group Surfers Against Sewage. The plastic pieces embedded in the original painting have enabled Dovecot to experiment using plastic, debris and string fibres collected by Jackson and which point to the devastating effects of plastic pollution in our seas. Dovecot’s constructed textile specialist Louise Trotter has worked with Kurt Jackson to achieve a sensitive balance of colour and texture. The contrast between the fishing rope and wool (the traditional and sustainable fibre used in rug making) powerfully illustrates the incursion of plastics into the natural environment.


Alongside the Dovecot Commission, this timely exhibition includes a selection of paintings spanning the last 25 years in which Jackson has actively collaged the jetsam and flotsam of the sea into the picture surfaces, some of which will be exhibited publicly for the first time in the UK.


Celia Joicey, Director of Dovecot, says

“It is a privilege to showcase Kurt Jackson’s superb and arresting paintings at Dovecot during COP 26 in Scotland. Not only is Jackson recognised as one of the UK’s most radical artists working in nature, but the world has gradually embraced his concern for our environment in ways that make his art ever more prescient.”


Julian Spalding, author of The Sea (2021) a major new monograph on Jackson launched to coincide with the exhibition, writes,

‘Kurt Jackson’s art is genuinely radical. It is an intrinsic part of his wider, awareness-changing agenda. Jackson’s art makes actual the brightness of seeing clearly, moments of heightened consciousness, vital both for science and for art.’


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