Jennie Speirs Grant presents a series of drawings transcribed directly from spring birdsong. Using a system of visual notation, each is a representation of an ever-changing soundscape. The series explores Speirs Grant’s interest in drawing as a means of collecting data from the world. In this instance, the works are sequences of data extracted from a living environment. They differ from the more usual forms of observational drawing in that the information gathered is auditory rather than visual.
Originally constructed as a rural retreat by industrialist William George Armstrong in the 1860s, Jesmond Dene, now a public park, is a narrow, steep-sided, ravine complete with artificial crags and waterfalls. Bordering the Newcastle suburb of Jesmond, the dene is a place of environmental sensitivity and habitat diversity. The sounds collected here and transcribed by Speirs Grant are made up of the calls of many species of woodland birds, complex and highly variable. They are affected by ever changing influences: light levels, cloud and leaf cover, temperature, wind, seasonal changes of behaviour, and the activity of predators. Each soundscape therefore is unique and unrepeatable; the drawing process becomes an encounter unique in its outcome, unknowable in advance. The separation between the living world of nature and the man-made environment is further emphasised by dislocation of this work to a gallery setting. The sounds are already receding in time and space, leaving only trace elements as evidence. And the observations not taken today will be lost forever…
Presented as part of ‘drawing?’ an extensive region-wide programme of exhibitions, events and activities which aims to celebrate, explore and consider the role of drawing in art and design, science, technology and everyday life. The programme runs until January 2016 and is a collaboration between several of the North East’s universities, galleries, museums, archives, artist-led groups, artists and makers.
Jennie Speirs Grant was born in Edinburgh and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. Primarily a sculptor, drawing remains central to her practice and she is an active contributor to the Drawing Research Network, the online, international community of artists and institutions for the promotion of drawing research. She undertook a PhD at Sunderland University, connecting contemporary drawing with studio glass practice; the results presented to the Urban Glass Academic Symposium in Brooklyn, USA, in 2014. She has had awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Royal Society of British Sculptors. She was a Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence for the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation in 2013-14 and is co-founder of Armstrong Studio Trust, providing sculpture studios in the Banqueting Hall, Jesmond Dene, Newcastle upon Tyne.