Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Loomery Scrolls

The Loomery Scrolls are not an iron age document we've just unearthed on Skomer, but are the fascinating product of a collaboration between art and science as Dr. Tim Birkhead explains....

On three separate occasions during the 2014 guillemot breeding season artist Chris Wallbank accompanied Tim Birkhead to make drawings and paintings based on Tim’s 42 year-long study of Skomer’s guillemots. Chris’s images are inspired by the distribution of birds on the cliffs and informed by the results of the long-term research. The artwork illustrates the dense breeding distribution of guillemots; their intense social relationships – both friendly and aggressive, and the fact that the life histories of many of the birds in Tim’s study colonies are known in detail – including some individuals that are now over twenty years old.

Chris (left) and Tim.
The finished pieces were exhibited between 18-28 September in Sheffield’s Cathedral – an appropriately ‘perpendicular’ and cliff-like setting for these wonderful and enormous drawings. The exhibition, which is part of Sheffield University’s ‘Festival of the Mind’ (see: http://festivalofthemind.group.shef.ac.uk/)

is entitled ‘The Loomery Scrolls’. The title refers to the fact that guillemot colonies were once known as ‘loomeries’. The scrolls are like Chinese scrolls that can be read right to left, and provide a sense of the scale of the colonies. 

Working in pencil, black ink, and coloured wash, Chris has created works of art that capture the essence of what guillemot colonies are like, and illustrates the value of art and science coming together in a collaborative project. On 25 September Tim gave a talk in cathedral about his long-tern study and its findings, including the effects of the 2014 ‘seabird wreck’ in which over 40,000 seabirds – many of them originating from Skomer - were found dead. The exhibition has helped to promote Skomer as a seabird island; it has demonstrated the excitement of an artist and a scientist working side by side; and has also publicised the value and necessity of long-term ecological studies. It is hoped that Chris’s work will soon be exhibited in Wales – perhaps even on Skomer.

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