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This curation explores a selection of the art on display in the Scottish Parliament.

The Parliament building was designed by lead architect Enric Miralles of EMBT working with RMJM architects. Miralles found inspiration in Scotland’s environment and history. He designed a building sympathetic to its setting between the Salisbury Crags and Edinburgh's Old Town.

Founded in 2002, the Scottish Parliament Art Collection features the work of over seventy artists, exploring ideas about Scotland's environment, history and identity. A subject that interests many of the artists in the Collection is the interdependent relationship between human beings and the natural world.

10 artworks
  • Sigurdur Gudmundsson, Untitled

    This sculpture is a gift from the Parliament of Iceland. The artist explores ideas about how Scotland and Iceland are connected by the natural world.

    The granite egg refers to the migration of pink-footed geese, which breed in Iceland and winter in parts of Scotland and England. The egg rests on a plinth of lava rock from the site of Iceland’s old Parliament, the Althing.

    The letter-cut phrase Með lögum skal land byggja is from Icelandic saga. It translates as With laws the land shall be built, highlighting how the laws of a country shape the lives and environments of its people.

    Untitled 2003–2004
    Sigurdur Gudmundsson (b.1942)
    Black granite & lava rock
    H 45 x W 110 x D 100 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • Will Maclean, Voyage of the Anchorites

    This assemblage features the motif of a small boat at sea, viewed from above as a passing seabird might see it. The figures refer to medieval anchorites who went on sea voyages as a spiritual quest. Look closely - the figures are part-bird or fish, perhaps indicating parallels between human beings and other living creatures when it comes to our existence on the planet.

    Inside the boat are objects for providing food and shelter. With these pieces of carved wood, there is a sense in which the work stands in for a non-existent archaeology of the past.

    The resemblance to African sculpture can bring to mind another association, of the dangerous voyages made by enslaved African peoples.

    Voyage of the Anchorites 1996
    Will Maclean (b.1941)
    Yellow pine, mdf board, acrylic glue, acrylic paint, acrylic filler paste
    H 188 x W 126 x D 10 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    Voyage of the Anchorites
    © the artist. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • Ian Hamilton Finlay with Peter Grant, Coble

    This wall-mounted sculpture, of five pieces of painted wood, shows the deconstruction of a coble, a type of flat-bottomed fishing boat.

    Cobles were constructed by joining overlapping pieces of wood. Here the artist is visually taking apart the idea of a coble and playing on the meaning of the word ‘cobble’.

    Cobles were used off of the east coasts of Scotland and England for fishing. The fishing registration WY is for Whitby in the north-east of England, an area where cobles are thought to have originated.

    Coble 1996
    Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925–2006)
    Hardwood & oil paint
    H 90 x W 277 x D 2.5 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    © By courtesy of the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • Shauna McMullan, Travelling the Distance

    This installation of one hundred porcelain sentences involved the artist inviting ninety-nine women to participate in the making of the work. She asked each woman to do two things – write about an inspirational woman and refer the artist on to another woman.

    Based on women’s own handwriting, the resulting work has a powerful sense of both collective and individual identities.

    The artwork offers an alternative map of Scotland, formed from the connections of women across different times, places and backgrounds.

    Travelling the Distance 2005–2006
    Shauna McMullan (b.1971)
    H 360 x W 420 x D 5 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    Travelling the Distance
    © Scottish Parliament Art Collection. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • Glen Onwin, Mossers, Rebels and Wolves, Heather Forest (Coral) Tree

    This mixed media installation, of twigs in black and red wax, and covered in a layer of partially evaporated salt, is on a large, immersive scale.

    The artist has used heather twigs to represent the idea of a forest in miniature. Onwin’s use of the strong black and red colours is linked to their historic use in political posters.

    As suggested by the title, the artist is exploring ideas about how the lives of human beings impact on the environment. There are references to how war and the eradication of wolves contributed to the destruction of forests. The use of salt, now thought to be a building block for life, refers to ideas about nature's potential for regrowth.

    Mossers, Rebels and Wolves, Heather Forest (Coral) Tree 2004
    Glen Onwin (b.1947)
    Plywood, heather twigs & roots, red & black oil paint & microcystalline wax (encaustic medium), partially evaporated salt, glue, wood preserver, oak & glass vitrine frames
    H 305 x W 140 x D 20.5 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    Mossers, Rebels and Wolves, Heather Forest (Coral) Tree
    © the artist. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • Sjoerd Buisman, Crassula

    In this sculpture the artist investigates the growth patterns of a plant from the Crassula genus of plants.

    Buisman is interested in the invisible processes of nature and in how to make them visible through the art he makes.

    The sculpture was a gift from the Government of the Netherlands.

    Crassula 1994
    Sjoerd Buisman (b.1948)
    Blue patinated bronze & oak
    H 59 x W 47 x D 25 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    © the artist. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • Alison Watt, Flexion

    In this abstract painting, although the human body appears to be absent, it is represented by the sensuality of the folds of fabric.

    The artist's exploration of form in this painting is a development of her earlier work exploring ideas about how the female nude has been represented in art.

    Flexion 2002–2003
    Alison Watt (b.1965)
    Oil on canvas
    H 213.4 x W 213.6 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • John Bellany, Fishers in the Snow

    In this painting, the artist characterised the harshness of life in a Scottish fishing village. Like the French artist Gustave Courbet, whose work he admired, Bellany depicts a local scene on a grand scale.

    The fishermen gathered around the catch appear sombre; this is not a scene of celebration. They look like a funeral gathering, like those in Courbet’s A Burial at Ornans or James Guthrie’s A Highland Funeral. By representing fishing in this way, the artist highlights how sacrifices are made by the natural world to sustain human life.

    The foreground figures resemble religious icons and emphasise the idea that we are witnessing a significant ceremonial event.

    Fishers in the Snow 1966
    John Bellany (1942–2013)
    Oil on board
    H 250.7 x W 326.9 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    Fishers in the Snow
    © the artist's estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • Boyle Family, Study of Rippled Sand and Black Rocks, Hebrides

    This fibreglass sculpture is based on a random selection of an area of beach on the Isle of Coll.

    It was made after the family of artists had started work on their World Series, a project to depict randomly selected sites from around the world.

    The artists were interested in the issue of how to represent the landscape without imposing their own subjective or romantic perspectives.

    Study of Rippled Sand and Black Rocks, Hebrides 1986
    Boyle Family (active since mid-20th C)
    Polyester resin, fibreglass & water soluble paint
    H 91.5 x W 150 x D 20 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    Study of Rippled Sand and Black Rocks, Hebrides
    © Boyle Family. All rights reserved, DACS 2021 . Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection

  • Alison Kinnaird, Psalmsong

    This is a glass, light and sound installation featuring a piece of music by the artist, also titled Psalmsong.

    The artist performed the music on two harps and a cello. She worked with the University of Edinburgh, who created computer-generated patterns from the music. The artist then engraved the interlacing patterns onto the glass panels, using them as a form of musical notation.

    The human figures, and the colours created by lighting the dichroic panels, represent the range of emotions experienced by the artist when performing the piece.

    Psalmsong 2003
    Alison Kinnaird (b.1949)
    Dichroic glass, oak, linen, led lights & cabling, av equipment to play sound
    H 160 x W 310 x D 33 cm
    Scottish Parliament Art Collection
    © the artist. Photo credit: Scottish Parliament Art Collection