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Photo by: Siobhán McDonald

Creativity can’t wait. And Siobán McDonald couldn’t wait either to successfully obtain her master degree in Visual Arts Practice from the Institute of Art and Design in Dublin before exhibition halls were filled with her art.

An Irish painter, Siobhán Mc Donald received numerous awards. However, something changed in 2010, as she experienced the extraordinary eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Facing the unleashed power of Nature in its rawest form “catapulted” her practice as a painter into turning to primary materials of geology and physics to work with.

About this shift, McDonald said: “I think about creation and our place within the living ecosystem of our planet. It might seem an enormous subject to tackle with art, but in my projects I like to consider disciplines like physics from an artistic point of view, and to think about the larger context in which the Earth exists.”

Meeting Jenny McElwain, Professeur of palaeobiology at University College Dublin prompted Siobhán’s curiosity in the period before climate change was identified around 1820.
“I decided to use the early tools of photography, reducing this medium to its bare essentials to make a series of photogenic drawings that interrogate an era before the Anthropocene”, she said.
Photo: ©Siobhán McDonald

Inspired by Iceland and its unpredictability, McDonald studied seismology and geology, naturally leading her to a growing collaboration with a broad range of scientists as the fundamental basis of her work. She is probably the only artist nowadays to call acoustic signals coming from the Eyjafjallajökull or a set of 350-million-year-old Irish coral fossils her muses.

If weather is indeed unpredictable in Iceland, extreme weather events are taking place all over the world, and the international community attempts to address both their predictability and their mitigation in a multilateral way, and through frameworks such as the Sendai Framework or the Paris Agreement. Obviously, such an artist had to be prompted about these issues.

When asked about the single most important thing artists can do to address climate change in aninterview, Siobhán said:

Artists have a role to play in alerting people to certain situations in a way that scientists cannot. In following a process of enquiry, many other enquiries emerge – my exhibition in Paris is certainly a point of resolution of some of these, but many other stories have opened up, and the interconnectedness of the parts has been astonishing.

Mission accomplished. Siobhán McDonald will let you see, hear and feel the changes in nature, past, present, and future. Her art implicitly blames the Anthropocene - a name for our own age where human activity is coming to dominate the environment in so many negative ways. Emotions and nostalgia are her weapons to combat climate change. By reaching out to us all. Be part of it, and go see ‘Crystalline’ if you can.

‘Crystalline – art from the Arctic, space and beyond’ is a series of artworks relating to the dying glaciers. This installation brings the elements of contemporary engineering together with prehistory in the use of carbon and charred bone. The artwork is created to mark the launch of the Solar Orbiter into Space in 2018. This work is currently exposed at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris: ‘Crystalline’ can be visited there until 12th March, and will then travel to the European Space Agency in April.

Tile Photo Credit: ©Siobhán McDonald

#Art4Climate is a joint initiative by the UNFCCC and Julie’s Bicycle to spot and propose super recent and new works in this broad field, but we also want to hear from you! Please send any proposals for showcasing to newsroom@unfccc.int or Chiara@juliesbicycle.com.
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