Kinghorn artist is helping tackle climate change

Elizabeth gets inspiration from the view from her studio. Photos by Fife Photo Agency
Elizabeth gets inspiration from the view from her studio. Photos by Fife Photo Agency

Acclaimed artist Elizabeth Ogilvie is using her lifelong passion for water in all its forms to help in the fight against global warming.

The Kinghorn-based artist, who works from a stunning waterfront studio converted from a former cinema, is preparing to launch a book and film based on her last exhibition ‘Out of Ice’ which was shown in London’s P3 in 2014.

Out of Ice the book will be launched at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh at the end of this month

Out of Ice the book will be launched at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh at the end of this month

The project was the culmination of 10 years of research, study, travel, interviews and invention which has regularly taken her to the remote north west Greenland region of Ilulissat, known as the ‘City of Icebergs’ to see up close the subject of her fascination.

And the project has seen her work alongside climate change scientists, Inuit explorers in the Arctic, poets, climate change experts, film-makers and engineers who helped her create her outsized art installations.

The launch of the book and film will take place on August 29 in Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, before moving on to London, Venice and Rekjavik, and it will form part of the Arctic Circle Assembly, an important international conference on climate change.

The huge success of the project is something which Elizabeth, who moved to Kinghorn with her late husband Robert Callender 28 years ago after spotting the potential for the old cinema building as a studio, could never have forseen.

Elizabeth Ogilvie

Elizabeth Ogilvie

“My parents were always interested in nature and fostered my interest, and I remember that, even as a child, I had a fascination with water and flooded the family home on more than one occasion,” she said.

“Water has always been my thing and my work naturally moved on to frozen water and the various forms of ice. I decided to go and study it up close and The City of Ice was the natural choice.”

Elizabeth first visited Ilulissat in 2009, and returned every year until last year to continue her work, speaking to local people and filming for the project which combines physical installations with film and mixed media, encouraging people to experience the ice and immerse themselves in her work.

“I create experiences for the public on an enormous scale. They can stay for a while and just look and watch the way the ice reacts in different ways. The work is meditative and contemplative with a subtle message, and its aim is to encourage people to stop and think about the environment.

“It has been a hugely enjoyable experience and I am looking forward to where it takes me next.”

Born in the countryside outside Montrose, Elizabeth studied sculpture at Edinburgh University before being invited back as a lecturer a decade later.

She worked there until she retired, at the same time building a distinguished career as a publicly funded environmental artist and also supporting up-and-coming young artists at her Kinghorn studio, where she lives and works.

Elizabeth and her husband came to Kinghorn from Edinburgh in 1990 after seeing an advert for a “derelict cinema” and realising the potential it offered them as both a workspace and home.

They spent two years completely transforming the old building – which closed as a cinema in the 1960s before becoming a dance hall – from a “horrible black box” into a stunning studio with large windows looking out over the Forth.

It was initially a studio for herself and Robert, who passed away seven years ago, and now provides a workplace for budding local talent including ceramic artist and jeweller Kate Trow and painter Michael Craik from Aberdour; photographer Scott Hunter from Dunfermline and mixed media artist Caroline McGonagle from Dalgety Bay.

“It is a fantastic place to live and work and I get daily inspiration from just looking out the windows,” explained Elizabeth.

“We hold open days every September to let the public see the wonderful work they are doing, and our door is always open to visitors who want to have a look around.”