Matthew Dalziel & Louise Scullion, artists: 'We wanted to say something about the economical way birds live'

The duo's work is showing in two galleries concurrently as part of Generation Scotland and includes a piece based on their close observation of birds at Fowlsheugh, the second-biggest colony of sea birds in Scotland

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The Independent Culture

Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion live and work in Broughty Ferry, a suburb of Dundee. Their living room is their studio, although, says Dalziel, "the studio is the outdoors".

It is also the subject of their work, which ranges from video and installation to textile, and is all based on close observation of and engagement with nature. Both teach at the University of Dundee and they have lived here for about 10 years, having previously lived in the remote fishing village of St Combs on the east coast of Scotland.

Both artists were born in Scotland, Dalziel in 1957 in Irvine and Scullion in 1966 in Helensburgh. They worked independently for five years after meeting, when they both were included in the British Art Show. Since 1993 they have collaborated and now share their art and life together. They have two sons, one of whom was born 16 years ago on 18 September, the day of the Scottish referendum, making him one of the youngest eligible voters in the country.

Their work is showing in two galleries concurrently as part of Generation Scotland. At An Lanntair gallery in Stornoway is a piece based on their close observation of birds at Fowlsheugh, the second-biggest colony of sea birds in Scotland, which was, 450 million years ago, a river bed. Dalziel says they wanted to bring a "Kanye West vibe". "To say something about the business of birds, like different nationalities all existing in one place."

Their aim is not to over-romanticise them but to focus on their vitality. They commissioned the Scottish violinist Aidan O'Rourke to compose a score that reflected the birds' hectic movement. "You look at the cumbersome way we live and then see these birds who are really economical and raise their babies on ledges this thick," says Scullion, gesturing.

Their other project, Tumadh:Immersion, is a range of uniquely designed "outdoor clothing" made to encourage people to engage with nature. Velcro pads on the back encourage the viewer to lie recumbent; focusing hoods force the wearer to look upwards; and there are earphones to listen to the sound of nature. "The ordinary cagoule does not say lie down next to a river and listen to the music of water," says Dalziel. "It says, 'Climb a Munro'. It doesn't say slow down."

A previous project, The Rosnes Bench, consisted of 30 benches constructed in resin mixed with stone. The idea was for people to recline in nature, with the benches carefully located to encompass different sounds and smells. Some are "placed deliberately near wild garlic", others strategically along a river bank, all with the aim of encouraging walkers to "be in the moment".

Their parting gift to me is a jeweller's loop, designed for one of the pockets of their bespoke outfits. They show me how to use the gadget, demonstrating its capacity with a piece of rock bedecked with a lurid orange lichen, sharing my pleasure as it unfolds in front of my eyes.

Dalziel + Scullion: Tumadh: Immersion at Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh (dovecotstudios.com) to 13 September; An Lanntair, Stornoway (generationartscotland.org) ends today

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