FIONNA  CARLISLE

 

scottish p

 

 

THEY say artists must be prepared to suffer for their work, and Fionna Carlisle walked through fire and crashed into the North Sea to prepare herself for a commission.
 

The artist had to endure the rigours of an oil industry survival course before starting a series of portraits on various people who have played leading roles in the history of North Sea exploration.

The completed collection was yesterday being installed at the Scottish Parliament, where it is it being exhibited.

Energy: North Sea Portraits is a collaboration between the artist, the National Galleries of Scotland and the oil exploration company, Total.

The 24 subjects come from a variety of countries, backgrounds, disciplines and oil companies and range from geologists and platform workers to the doctor and clergyman who provide care to workers in the industry.

Canteen lady Jean Stephen, who served coffee and tea to staff at Total's Altens of?ce near Aberdeen for 29 years, is also depicted, and her portrait hangs alongside First Minister Alex Salmond and Lord Cullen, who chaired the inquiry following the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988.

Wick-born Carlisle, who famously painted Robin Cook in the months before his death in August 2005, took more than 18 months to complete the works, some of which were painted on offshore platforms.

The collection, which has since been exhibited in Total headquarters in Paris, the European Parliament in Brussels and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, is being show at the Scottish Parliament to mark the 50th anniversary of Spinal Injuries Scotland, of which Carlisle is a patron, and to highlight the work of the Juvenile Diabetes Defence Foundation.

Carlisle said: "I had to go through a four-day survival course because I was to spend five to six days offshore. It wasn't much fun, walking through fires and being thrown into the sea in a simulated helicopter crash.

"But it was a fantastic opportunity as I had always wanted to visit offshore. I was incredibly impressed by the people I met. I made connections with these people, there is always a bond you form with a sitter.

"I have never worked so fast in my life as there is limited time offshore. Some of the portraits were completed in a long weekend.It was not ideal because everyone was so busy, but if I did not have something to do I would have gone stir crazy."

Organisers of the exhibition say it serves as a fitting celebration of the lives and achievements of the people who make up Scotland's oil and gas industry, now and for the future.

The subjects were chosen by a ballot among people working in the industry.

Lord Cullen was the most popular choice, with Mr Salmond initially being a controversial pick. His name was put forward before he became First Minister by workers at the St Fergus Gas Terminal for his role as an economist and as their constituency MP.

Carlisle said she first met Mr Salmond at Mr Cook's funeral and had to fit in sittings around his busy schedule.

"(Alex Salmond] was very busy but he warmed to the idea and he was very helpful," she said.

Carlisle is delighted the exhibition is now in place at the Scottish Parliament: "The last place it was at was the European parliament, so I just need Westminster now to complete the hat-trick."

A spokesman for Total said the portraits captured a moment in the history of the oil industry and the people who made it happen.

He said: "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."

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