Artists brighten walkway with installation created in collaboration with nature
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Artists brighten walkway with installation created in collaboration with nature
Artists Yulia Kovanova and Lars Koens.

FALKIRK.- Scotland-based artists Yulia Kovanova and Lars Koens are presenting their latest installation - Chroma Calls as part of Canal Encounters - a month-long celebration of Scotland’s Forth & Clyde Canal. Commissioned by Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals, the artists are exhibiting twenty sculptures drawing attention to the ecology of the Canal and some of the local and visiting bird species.

Each of the twenty sculptures are based on the colourful plumage of specific bird species that live or visit the Canal. They are attached to trees along four miles of Forth & Clyde Canal from the iconic Kelpies to the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift.

The artists worked with ecologist and Scottish Canals Environmental Manager, Olivia Lassiere to select some of the most iconic bird species to feature in the canal and the adjacent walking and cycling path. Each sculpture, through an abstracted arrangement of colour, conjures the particular chromatic patterns by which each species attracts others of its kind. Designed to move in the wind, the sculptures create sounds that carry along the canal. In addition to easily recognisable birds, such as the Robin and Mute Swan, the artists also included such species as the Tufted Duck and Kingfisher, who may be less common or more hidden in the area. Most of the bird species the artists focused on are known to be present during the month of August when the sculptures are on show.

The simple compositions draw attention to colours that would otherwise go unnoticed, such as the red of the Coot’s eye, the silvery glow of the Jackdaw’s feathers, and the pink legs of the herring gull. In the process of colour coding, the artists discovered the complexity of bird colours, with the colour palettes of birds depending on a range of variables, including age, gender, season, lighting and is furthermore different per individual. The sculptures are made out of wood, primarily birch and bamboo, and utilising eco-friendly paint, in keeping with the celebration of the Forth & Clyde canal ecology.

In addition to the birds’ body parts, the minimal shapes of the sculptures - circles, semi-circles and lines - echo the canal’s industrial and natural features: the canal, its locks and its bridges relate to linear shapes, and the Falkirk Wheel has circular and semicircular shapes. As a result, Chroma Calls is a conjunction of the heritage, environment and communities of the waterway.

The artists worked together with a tree house specialist Patrick Fulton, to build and secure the sculptures to various tree species, as well as other Canal structures.

Speaking about the project artist Yulia Kovanova said: “Chroma Calls was truly a collaborative process. When it came to installing the sculptures we were guided by the local and visiting birds alighting on the trees or the canal nearby. As we worked on the project, I myself developed attentiveness towards the rich wildlife of the Canal. I had to look more intently than I would normally do: to search for the birds, to spot the right trees, to find the best match. For me, the sculptures evoke more consideration of our surroundings. In order to observe those bird species that live along the canal, you must have that kind of attentiveness, or else they simply drift into the background. The canal is so rich with life, you can see it all if you pay attention.”

The work evolved from previous collaborations between Lars Koens and Yulia Kovanova, such as Colony and ‘Grey to Blue: Ecological Entanglements.’ Colony focused on another bird species that visits Scotland on their migratory route - the Arctic tern. The latest iteration of Colony was presented in 2020 in An Tobar Gallery on the Isle of Mull. Grey to Blue: Ecological Entanglements was part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2019.

Yulia Kovanova is a Scotland-based British-Russian visual artist and filmmaker. She employs an interdisciplinary approach across a range of media, including sculptural and audio-visual installations and experimental and creative documentary film. Yulia’s artistic practice focuses on the notion of ‘entanglements’ and investigates the human within interspecies relationships, exploring crossovers between human and non-human worlds. Her practice currently focuses on the investigation of ecology of colour and its dynamics, the ideas of spatio-temporal borders and perceptual boundaries. Her immersive projects invite audiences to consider concealed qualities of our environment, drawing relevance from current concerns for climate and biological diversity.

Yulia’s work has been presented at leading arts events, including Setouchi and Aichi International Triennale, Japan, Edinburgh Art Festival and Edinburgh Science Festival, and international film festivals. She taught at MFA Art, Space and Nature, Edinburgh College of Art, the University of Edinburgh. Yulia’s film Plastic Man received BAFTA Scotland and UK Best Short Film (Open City Documentary Festival) nominations. In 2016, together with artist and landscape architect Ross Mclean, she co-founded The Surface Agency as a shared creative interest in speculative questions about our entangled world. She delivered artistic commissions for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the National Health Service (NHS) Lothian, and the British Council.

Lars Koens is an artist and composer with a PhD in astrophysics. The works of Lars Koens explore the importance of art in understanding and shaping the relationships between humans and nonhumans. Born in 1984 in the Netherlands he studied at the University of Amsterdam, UNIS in Svalbard, the University of Bristol and finally in Edinburgh, where he completed a PhD and postdoc in Cosmology at the Royal Observatory, supervised by Prof Catherine Heymans, Scotland’s Astronomer Royal.

From 2014 his films have reached an international audience at major film festivals, such as the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival, Zinebi, Full Frame, Ann Arbor, and Festival du Nouveau Cinéma. Since Graminoids (2014), a short film co-directed with Demelza Kooij, he continues to interrogate cinema’s position in an ecological context. His sound and installation art has featured at Sonica in Glasgow, The Edinburgh International Festival, WRO Media Art Biennale in Wroclaw, FACT in Liverpool, MMCA in South Korea, and Aichi Triennale in Japan.

In 2017 he started teaching experimental film and sound design at universities in the UK and since 2021 he is Senior Lecturer in Filmmaking at Nottingham Trent University.

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