The Fragility of Flight

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Jocelyn Anne Rabbitts


I take as my initial inspiration found carcasses and feathers of birds washed up on the Uist shorelines. I concentrate on drawing the minutiae of what I see before me – studied under magnification or with the naked eye. I try to express what I feel about the bones, sinews and feathers dried and twisted by the salt spray and wind. What is left of the bird remains beautiful but a constant reminder to me of nature’s harsh realities.

Andrea Roe

Stilled, Presence

Stilled explores the idea of display by using a transparent shampoo bottle as a means to present a preserved wasp in flight. Here she suggests that the calming properties of the chamomile shampoo may have influenced the behaviour of the wasp. The second work, Present, is an attempt to recall the sound and potency of bird song long after the song has ended. The copper electroformed blackbird tongues are positioned in the space acting as individual territory holders and their visual presence is a reminder of the intensity of exchanged song.

Andrea Roe - Presence (detail)

Jon MacLeod Jocelyn Anne Rabbitts - Lapwing I

Deirdre Nelson

Bird Yarns

Takaya Fujii Apple Project Bird Yarns is an art project responding to the changing migration patterns of seabirds caused by rising sea temperatures. In recent years, arctic terns, the greatest travellers on earth, have suffered devastating disruption to their breeding and migration cycles caused by food shortages in their usual stopovers on their journey south. Bringing together local knitters from An Tobar’s Woolly Wednesdays group with other national and international knitters to create a flock of woolly arctic terns. The birds have been made using yarn from Ardalanish organic farm, on the Isle of Mull, and creative use of a range of recycled and found materials.


In 1749 Johannes Leche of Turku, in Finland, made the first scientific recording of the dates of migrating birds. My work is a result of experiences of living and working in the Outer Hebrides and Finland to highlight folklore from both locations relating to bird movements. The sail cloth bags are designed to carry found birch bark from Hebridean and Baltic shores and were created following a tall ship residency between the two places. The names are like a mnemonic and recall the boats passed on our journey. The audio is a traditional Gaelic ocean blessing translated into Finnish by a crew mate.

Edwyn Collins

Dr Jim Mooney Reader in Theory and Practice of Fine Art, Middlesex University

Edwyn Collins - Puffin

Kate Foster

Jon MacLeod - Ledastern

Sophie Morrish

The World Differently Defined Deirdre Nelson - Bird Yarns

Anne Corrance Monk

Using everyday materials and spaces, I explore gaps and overlaps between sculpture and drawing. Hinting at delicacy and fragility, I often use transparent or translucent materials; glass, organza, polythene, sellotape. Here, fine polythene is used as a drawing medium and as a sculptural element within space. Air is the support, and also acts as the maker, continually folding and reconfiguring the form, shape and marks. Within the limits of its existence, this drawing /sculpture is in a constant state of flux. Much of my work exists only for a short time. It is meant to be neither permanent nor perfect.

Anne Corrance Monk

Bird Drawings

Birds are the nearest things we have to the mythological/religious figure of the angel. Angels, importantly, were considered to be messengers and still carry a rhetorical and imaginative power for contemporary thinkers and artists….I read these bird drawings as messengers carrying news bulletins that report from the interior world of Edwyn Collins, initially to expectant loved ones and carers, and now to a larger audience through the vehicle of public exhibition. They chart one aspect of the evolution of the restoration of his self at a time when other means of communication had closed down, were diverted, seriously impaired or temporarily suspended. Consequently, they illuminate and provide an important, but necessarily incomplete, account of the personal catastrophe that Collins survives [suffering two cerebral haemorrhages in 2005]. It is for this reason that these drawings are elevated above the merely illustrational and bear witness to the construction/reconstruction of self and world and a determined effort to re-connect the two through the beguiling intermediary of images of birds.

Bird skeletons have many features that resemble those of the human skeleton. The majority of the bones are the same, only shaped differently. The main difference being that the bird's skeleton is adapted for flight. Here presented, the skeletal remains of two birds, a Manx Shearwater and a Peregrine Falcon, found and collected post mortem here in the Uists; the longest lived breeding bird species and the fastest on the planet respectively. The Peregrine, found in the state seen here, cause of death unknown, the Manx Shearwater found, intact, in the middle of Loch Boisdale ferry terminal car park, the apparent victim of a vehicle strike.

Sophie Morrish The World Differently Defined


Disposition concerns unique history of a museum specimen - a scarce bird of prey, a hen harrier. After it had been killed as ‘vermin’ in a shooting estate in the far north-west of Scotland in the 1920s, a female hen harrier was procured for Glasgow University collection as a cabinet skin. Still heavily persecuted in other areas, these ground-nesting birds are also affected by diminished habitat. I travelled from Glasgow to a remote community with the cabinet skin, learning of the likely circumstances of the bird’s demise. These photographs – within a commercial plantation that now exists at the place of its death - formed part of my representation of this bird’s unique history in the museum. An accompanying bookwork uses the specimens label as a departure point to make dioramas‘ about each piece of information given. Kate Foster - Disposition (detail)

Dalziel + Scullion Bag

The creation of the tweed is our response to the complex land management issues surrounding sporting estates in Scotland and it tells the tale of two birds: the Hen Harrier and the Red Grouse who share large stretches of moorland on various hunting estates in Scotland. The Harrier by nature hunts the grouse and in particular it’s chicks. The hunting estate requires large and healthy populations of grouse to be available for shooting parties; a crucial part of the economy in these remote communities, inevitably a conflict exists between gamekeepers and conservationists. The bag borrows from the traditional design of a ghillies bag, but is made from Tweed specially commissioned to reflect the colour pallets of the Hen Harrier and the Red Grouse.

Takaya Fujii Apple Project North Uist

The project, which has been duplicated in many situations in Japan and across Europe, is an interactive installation whereby the artist hopes to engage people in an understanding of nature, the lives of plants and our lives also. The apples placed on the bird table by visitors to Taigh Chearsabhagh will be pecked by birds and decay over the period of a year, hopefully producing apple tree seedlings which in turn, once returned to the participants, with careful nurturing produce apples themselves. Takaya Fujii is an artist & independent curator and the founder and director of the KWR gallery, Kyoto Weissraum.

Cheryl Field

Skein Over Vallay

The Rocket Range on Benbecula & The works of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. North Korean missiles & Ornithology. The reduction of induced drag & A diamond-bright-day on the saturated-sands of Vallay. Looking up and looking down into that perfect prodigious mirrored sky.

Commissioned by Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability (ACES) and The Macaulay Institute. Tweed woven by Breanish Tweed in The Outer Hebrides.

Claudia Losi


The reality we can sense in Claudia Losi’s work should not be seen only in terms of the visual characteristics and realism of the objects, but also in the capacity for mutation, which we can immediately perceive as a real factor. Closer to a need to sense a time that determines an image, not vice versa, with her gestures and projects Claudia Losi underlines the changing of things, life forms in gestation, the formal destiny shared by everything that lives, grows and is transformed. Riccardo Conti, 2006

Claudia Losi - Schermata


Takaya Fujii - Apple Project North Uist

Steve Dilworth


This is a later addition to the series known as ‘Throwing Objects’ and contains a preserved Swift, a donation from the Booth Museum, Brighton. Clearly it has resonances to a discus or similar and its form invites handling because of its tactile qualities. In recent years his use of once living material, and the mythological purposes he ascribes to his objects, has prompted association of his work with the growing interest in shamanic cultures. Dilworth, however, makes no claim of this kind for himself or his work. "I want to retrieve that moment of understanding, not by describing, but by making. Of course I'll fail, but in the chemistry of making another moment will appear. These objects are drawn from an internal landscape, of shifting sands. Connections are constantly being discovered".

Steve Dilworth - Swift

Cheryl Field - Skein over Vallay

Michelle Letowska

Mutual aid as a factor of evolution: flocking, feeding, singing, nesting As humans we often look to animals to understand ourselves, our place in the world and our relationships to one another. During the late 19th century, Peter Kropotkin’s studies of birds and other human and non-human animals led him to conclude that Darwinism and social Darwinism had underplayed the importance of cooperation and mutual aid as evolutionary factors for the survival and flourishing of species. Kropotkin suggested that cooperation rather than heedless struggle was a feature of the most intelligent and advanced species.

Michelle Letowska - Mutual Aid


It seems odd that merely to watch the motion of flight should give the body not only vicarious exhilaration but release. So urgent is the rhythm that it invades the blood. This power of flight to take it into itself through the eyes as though we had actually shared in the motion, I have never felt so strongly as when watching swifts on the mountain top. Their headlong rush, each curve of which is at the same time a miracle of grace, the swishing sound of their cleavage of the air and the occasional high pitched cry that is hardly like the note of an earthly bird, seem to make visible and audible some essence of the free, wild spirit of the mountain. Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain

M’eudail thusa, mo lur ‘s mo shealgair

You are my treasure, my hero and my hunter

Thug thu ’n-dè dhomh ‘n sùl ’s an gearrbhall

Yesterday you gave me the gannet and the Garefowl (Great Auk)

...Na h-eòin a’tighinn, cluinneam an ceòl!’

The birds are approaching, let me hear their music St Kilda lament circa.1865 from John Love - A Natural History of St. Kilda,

via Calum Ferguson, Alexander Carmichael and Euphemia MaCrimmon

Global warming changes bird migration routes. Like the canaries that once warned of gas danger in mine shafts, migrating birds are becoming harbingers of another risk - climate change. Confused and disoriented by erratic weather, birds are changing migration habits and routes to adjust to warmer winters, disappearing feeding grounds and shrinking wetlands. Failure to adapt risks extinction. Arthur Max 2007

Origami Crane Instructions Cut out square of paper. Crease accurately along diagonal and open. Repeat on other diagonal. Turn over & crease parallel to both edges. Fold sides underneath to create smaller square. Fold the sides of top layer only in to make a diamond. Turn over & repeat on other side.

Crease down top triangle.

Lift bottom corner of top layer. Now this is the tricky bit.



In 2005, after severe storm damage in the Outer Hebrides, a major habitat for many bird species, Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre, in collaboration with artist/academic Keith McIntyre, director of GSN at Northumbria University, and musician Karen Wimhurst, initiated The Fragility of Flight project which has become an ongoing series of exhibitions and research programmes. This year’s exhibition is an ambitiously curated assembly of artists, both from the Outer Hebrides and from as far as Japan, who have a shared interest in avian subject matter, our interaction with birdlife and ecological issues. Takaya Fujii’s Apple Project, outside Taigh Chearsabhagh’s cafe window, has been replicated in many locations around the world. He seeks to connect people with nature by inviting those who place an apple to observe the transformation by birds, decay and ultimately regrowth over the period of a year. Taigh Chearsabhagh are delighted to collaborate with the National Trust for Scotland on managing the inaugural St Kilda Visual Artist Residency, funded by SNH/Year of Natural Scotland. There are two residencies available in 2013, one being reserved for an artist either from or resident in the Outer Hebrides. The resultant work from this year’s residencies will be included in the 2014 Fragility of Flight events. The deadline for applications is Friday 10th May 9am. For more information download the guidelines and application form at or contact Andy Mackinnon, Arts Officer at or 01870 603977 Takaya Fujii Apple Project sponsored by


Open out & gently reverse top folds. Insert finger to assist & flatten. Turn over & repeat last 3 steps. Fold both edges in to centre on both sides. Check fold positions as diagram.

Open back and front on right side pull out and up. Reverse fold at 45˚ angle. Reverse fold one side near the tip to make head. Fold wings down. Holding wings between thumbs and forefingers gently pull out to flatten box body shape. Blow into hole in underside to inflate.