AGE OF OIL 2017
Touring exhibition 2017 – 18:
National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh
University of Aberdeen, Special Collections and Museum
This exhibition focuses on my North Sea artworks from the last decade. Visually these offshore installations are brutal, not bonnie, built for pure function, crude oil and gas production, and more recently renewable power generation. I have witnessed at first hand the start of the oil & gas industry’s immense decommissioning programme, which constitutes such a complex and fascinating period in North Sea maritime history.
Located in ever changing remote natural environments, over the years they have taken on their own individual social atmosphere created by people who have personalised their offshore work spaces. I found it poignant watching workers, who have had lifelong attachments to their platform, shut it down, abandon their work site and end its life.
“This harbour has always fascinated me with my main focus on its two distinctive iconic panoramas: Upper Dock, located in the heart of the city and the view from Marine Operations Centre tower at North Pier, the gateway to the open sea.”
Diary extract: The Age of Oil publication, 2017
“At the Upper Dock, giant oil-related vessels are packed closely together in dock. This quay runs parallel to Market Street, which is always bustling with congested, noisy and polluting traffic.
Up in the marine operations tower, five levels high, the vista is breathtaking, an 180-degree visual panorama: Royal Deeside’s distant hills, the city and most of its harbour quays and out to the North Sea. I drew there on many occasions, building up a visual knowledge in my sketch books for working further on a large work back in my studio: I watched in the quiet company of the vessel traffic services officers, the ebb and flow of the harbour’s maritime traffic activities.”
BRENT DELTA PLATFORM
“As we walked up the stairway to the helideck I looked north and could just see Murchison, tiny in scale, alone and abandoned out there. The two heavy lift vessels had not yet arrived for its topside dismantlement. Looking south I had a clear view of Brent’s three other platforms: Charlie’s gas flare still alight and burning; Brent Field’s last lonely flag flying at half-mast.”
Diary extract: The Age of Oil publication, Brent Delta visit 2016
“… bright orange in colour with soaring Gothic cathedral-like proportions. Over her thirty-four year operational lifespan, she was held dear by many offshore workers who served her. Murchie, as she was affectionately known, was famous not only for oil production but for her five-star meals and friendly, welcoming atmosphere, so vital to people’s morale whilst working in such confined, extreme and remote environments.”
Diary extract: Age of Oil Publication, Murchison Platform first visit 2014
“Brian Taylor, the offshore installation manager, a very friendly guy from Peterhead, escorted us down to the control room, the working heart of the platform, to meet the four control room operators. They showed us the flat screen computer monitors which had replaced the original large switchboards. The monitors were positioned on top of the original control station, its exterior panelling still in the original blue enamelled metal.”
Diary extract: Murchison platform first visit 2013
Orkney EMEC Bilia Croo test site
I was particularly fascinated by the Pelamis wave machine which I found visually very exciting to draw. It was bright red and yellow in colour, like an exotic corn snake, gliding and riding the waves. On the test site close by, I drew the Wello Penguin wave energy converter machine. This surreal boat-like machine was more like a pop art installation than a sophisticated engineering device.