In the studio: Elizabeth Ogilvie, artist

"It is my experience of the countryside that I am trying to convey to the public"

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The Independent Culture

Elizabeth Ogilvie lives in a converted cinema facing the sea in Kinghorn, Fife, an hour north of Edinburgh, Scotland. She and fellow artist Robert Callender, her late husband, brought the cinema while they were working in Leith. “Our work had outgrown the studio, which was a very low old stable block and we could not see how the final work would look before it was installed. We decided it will give the work the opportunity to flourish in this new environment.”

When the building came on the market, it was derelict and they reclaimed it bit by bit, adding comfortable living accommodation along with many windows on the mezzanine floor.

There are two balconies, one looking seaward and an indoor balcony that allows Ogilvie another perspective on her work. It is in a particularly apposite position, as her artistic research is about water, and more recently about ice conceived through video, photography and installation. She is currently experimenting with blocks of melting ice suspended over a small pool, to be shown near to projections of glaciers in her forthcoming show.

Ogilvie was born in 1946 and brought up near the Cairngorms. “I was a great player with water when I was a child. I was fascinated with streams and rivers and spent a lot of time with another friend of mine just exploring.”

She credits her rural upbringing as having a profound influence on her work: “It is that experience of seeing and being surrounded by the countryside and the natural world that I am trying to convey to the public.”

It is not her aim to be overtly political,  but she “expects the public to meet her half way”. Her show, soon to open in London, will also host a conference about climate, including as key note speakers, Inuits and Alaskan scientists.

Ogilvie does not heat the studio, wrapping up in thermals, saying it is appropriate to pursue her research into ice in the chill of the large room. Recently she has been researching in Greenland, flying from Denmark and landing in the disused volcanic crater that houses the remote airport.

She has befriended the local Inuit who use the ice cap as both their garden and hunting ground, harvesting plentiful fish through ice caps. It is with their guidance that she has begun to realize how “fearfully” they are reacting to the changing landscape.

“They are aware of the changes over the decades. There have been changes before but there is much, much, more now. As urban people, we do not look as we do not need to. They have to be aware of their environment.”

Ogilvie does not presently work with a gallery, saying that her need for one was replaced by her position as a teacher in a university. “When I am experimenting I can take big risks with exhibitions. I would rather that than feel ashamed about kowtowing to anyone else and what they are thinking.”

Elizabeth Ogilvie: Out of Ice, Ambika P3, London ( 17 January to 9 February