Friday, 5 December 2008

Scotland’s North Sea energy portraits in Brussels

I was in early this morning to meet Will Mulholland of Art Link who was delivering a collection of 25 paintings by the distinguished Scottish artist, Fionna Carlise to the European Parliament. This was her Energy: North Sea oil portraits exhibition which has previously been shown in The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Duff House, Shetland Museum, La Defense in Paris and now for the first time in Brussels and the first time in the European Parliament.

The collection focuses on the vital role played by Scotland’s oil industry with portraits of various individuals who have played their part in the history of our oil industry, from oil-rig builders, helicopter pilots to the technical and service staff on the rigs themselves. It also includes a painting of Alex Salmond before he became First Minister of Scotland.

Alyn was sponsoring the exhibition which opens in the EP on Monday for a week. We had booked the Yehudi Menuhin space last December so it has taken us a year to be able to bring such a collection to Brussels – such is the pressure on space in the EP and believe me it is no easy feat. With 27 Member States plus all their different regions wanting to showcase their cultural heritage in the EP (and what a great place to do it in), you need to book key space at least a year in advance.

The exhibition had been organised as a real collaborative effort with the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Highland Council and the Scottish Government EU Office.

The works on display are a striking and dramatic interpretation of Scotland's energy resources and provide an interesting cultural landscape to the current debate on the EU's proposed Energy Package.

More information about the artist and her work can be found on her website at

As the office of the MEP sponsoring the exhibition I had to be there in the EP’s garage to meet them and ensure there were no problems with security. Standing at 8.30 in the morning in the freezing cold in a place the size of an airport hangar and where I’d never been before I had a real sense of anticipation as I waited for a collection of Scottish art to arrive from home. After weeks of preparation it was finally here.

I had first met Fionna Carlisle, who comes from Wick, in June when she came across to Brussels with Julie Lawson of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to see for herself the space we had booked for her collection. One of the things that is great about this collection is that Fionna actually went offshore and spent some time on the oil platforms to enable her to get a better understanding of Scotland's oil and gas industry - but it is a fantastic collection.

Ironically, this exhibition has arrived in Brussels just as the Scottish Government published its climate change bill which if passed will ensure Scotland has the most ambitious climate change legislation anywhere in the world with all six Greenhouse gases and emissions from international aviation and shipping included within the ambitious 80% target by 2050. This should put Scotland at the forefront of global and European efforts to tackle climate change.

Here are some of the paintings from the collections on display inthe European Parliament this week:

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