Sponsored by TOTAL E&P UK PLC
The vital role played by Scotland’s oil industry within the UK is celebrated in a unique collection of portraits sponsored by TOTAL for a major exhibition at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery this Autumn. Energy: North Sea Portraits illustrates the ‘human’ story behind the industry and documents the impact that it has had on individuals and communities.
Scottish painter Fionna Carlisle has created twenty-four new portraits of individuals who play their part in the oil industry today for the exhibition, sponsored by TOTAL and supported by an Arts and Business New Partners Investment. From a variety of different countries, backgrounds, disciplines and oil companies, Carlisle’s subjects range from geologists and platform workers to the doctor and clergyman who provide care to workers in the industry and their community both on and offshore.
Andrew Hogg, Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Manager at TOTAL, said, “We invited members of the industry to nominate people who they believed to have an important role in this industry’s great history. The expected outcome is that the portraits will capture a moment in the history of our industry and the people that made it happen. More than that, Fionna’s ability to capture personalities along with appearances, means that audiences will be able to see what makes these people special.”
Barclay Price, Director of Arts & Business Scotland, said, “TOTAL are enthusiastic supporters of the arts and this innovative project takes their engagement a step further. We were delighted to provide New Partners investment to help to create this artistic celebration of one of Scotland’s key business sectors.”
Energy: North Sea Portraits captures all levels of the industry at a critical moment in its history. One of the most important industries in the country, it has revolutionised the United Kingdom’s economy since oil was first pumped ashore thirty years ago. Although volumes being produced are beginning to diminish, current estimates suggest there remains thirty years’ worth of oil reserves still to be claimed from the sea. The exhibition serves as a fitting celebration of the lives and achievement of the people who make up Scotland’s oil and gas industry, now and for the future.
Prior to beginning the project, Fionna Carlisle underwent an OPITO-approved course in basic offshore safety training and, over the past 18 months, she has shared the experiences of the workers on the platforms, painting many of the portraits in situ as well as in Aberdeen and at her studio in Edinburgh. The varied lives of the sitters will be told in the accompanying catalogue, which will also contain, by Bill Mackie – the eminent authority on the history of the oil industry – an essay recounting the heroic story of the individuals who established the industry. The main essay in the catalogue will be written by Duncan MacMillan, emeritus Professor of History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and one of Scotland’s leading art critics. His essay will show how the artist has evolved a style of painting far removed from her normal practice. Instead of months of long sittings in ideal studio conditions, she has sought and arrived at a way of making portraits with speed and accuracy in conditions far from ideal. The results have the immediacy and vitality of impressionist portraiture at its best – and exemplify the ‘Energy’ of the exhibition’s title.
Fionna Carlisle, herself a native of Wick, was familiar from childhood with the sea in all its moods and all its grandeur and had already painted it in a major series of dark and moody seascapes. She also has an established reputation as a portrait painter and had painted a number of distinguished sitters before she embarked on this project. The late Robin Cook and broadcaster and journalist Sheena McDonald are among her subjects. It was her background and her interest in the sea that first fired Carlisle’s curiosity about the industry that had grown up in her lifetime.
The exhibition charts the heroic saga of the North Sea which began quietly in the mid-1960s, when a small irregular flotilla of frail craft slipped out of the ancient port of Aberdeen, below the North East shoulder of Scotland, and into the treacherous waters. It was in the 1970s that a dream became reality and extraction began of the oil discovered beneath the North Sea.
The exhibition marks the coming of age of an industry that has now seen the passing of a whole generation where many of the people recorded in the portraits have grown up and lived their working lives in the oil and gas industry of the North Sea. Centred on Aberdeen, the industry is now the most wealth-creating of all production and manufacturing sectors in the UK, employing approximately 380,000 people.
For further information and images, please contact the National Galleries of Press Office on 0131 624 6325/ 332/ 314 or firstname.lastname@example.org