Shemilt, Elaine

Professor

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20022020

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Personal profile

Biography

Elaine Shemilt is an artist and researcher, especially known as a fine art printmaker. However hers is not a conventional approach to the medium. According to the art historian and theorist Alan Woods: "Her work ranges across a wide variety of media. Initially it focused on installation, the various printmaking media were used in an attempt to continue and develop the installations by other means. If the event is inevitably lost , a new artwork is launched from it, and as themes and subjects occur and re-occur, their re-generation might usefully be imagined as located within an extended family of images." 

She is a graduate of Winchester School of Art and the Royal College of Art and has exhibited internationally including Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, Canada, USA, Australia, Italy and Germany including the Hayward and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; and the Edinburgh Festival. She was a pioneer of early feminist video and multi-media installation work alongside her fellow artist and friend Helen Chadwick, who selected her for the Hayward Annual in 1979. Of her early video works, only one has survived: "Doppelgänger" (1979), which was recovered and remastered by the REWIND video art project in 2011.
She established the Printmaking Department of the School of Fine Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (University of Dundee) in 1988 and was Course Director of Printmaking from 1988 -2001. She is currently Professor of Fine Art Printmaking and a Professional member of Society of Scottish Artists and was its President from March 2007-2010. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2000 and of the Royal Geographical Society in 2009. In 2002 she was made a Shackleton Scholar and awarded a Carnegie Scholarship. She is a Trustee of the South Georgia Heritage Trust which was established to promote the environmental protection and habitat restoration of this natural wilderness in the Southern Atlantic.[8]

CENTRE for REMOTE ENVIRONMENTS

The Centre for Remote Environments (CRE) is a research and development team based within Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee, Scotland.   At the forefront of visualisation research, CRE is developing tools to best communicate and express the scientific and cultural significance of Remote Environments.  Art/ Science collaborations go beyond description. They are intelligent responses to problems that need to be addressed.CRE was established in 2001 by the late Brigadier David Nicholls and Prof Elaine Shemilt as a research and consultancy group concerned with environmental protection and education and to provide environmental educational resources through digital media.  In 1999, during his final appointment as Commander British Forces Falkland Islands, Brigadier Nicholls commissioned Professor Shemilt to lead a group of staff and student artists from the University of Dundee to work in the Military Base, Mount Pleasance. The goal was to develop relationships between the Arts and the Ministry of Defence by conducting research into a post war military establishment. The project resulted in exhibition sites throughout the long corridors of Mount Pleasance HQ and a colour coded direction route to make the barracks user friendly and more accessible. The research project was concluded with the memorial exhibition “Traces of Conflict” at the Imperial War Museum in 2002.From this time spent in the Falkland Islands both Shemilt and Nicholls had developed a deep affinity for the area. When Nicholls retired from the Royal Marines in 2001, South Georgia became the focus of their energies and the research Centre for Remote Environments (CRE) was established within the University of Dundee.  Professor Shemilt first visited South Georgia in 2002 as a Shackleton scholar and the island continues to influence her work as both an academic and as an artist. Since its beginnings in 2001, CRE has worked closely with the GSGSSI and stakeholders such as SGHT and FOSGI on projects relating to South Georgia.  CRE helped set up the official website for South Georgia and continues to manage the website on behalf of GSGSSI. CRE worked on the recent Habitat Restoration project on South Georgia and employed Professor Tony Martin, who led the restoration work. In recent years CRE has been researching opportunities to visualise the scientific work being undertaken on and around South Georgia.  We are particularly interested in how large data sets (such as the LIDAR scans of the whaling stations) can be made available to a wider audience and how to promote South Georgia to the millions of visitors who will never get the change to visit the island in person.

RECENT RESEARCH

Shemilt is principal investigator on the AHRC-funded research project , European Women’s Video Art in the 1970s & 80s. The project investigated the early and under-looked work by women and resulted in a number of exhibitions, and a major publication. Starting in March 2018 she is also  principal investigator on another AHRC-funded research project (£215,602), Richard Demarco, the Italian Connection | Exchanges between Scotland and Italy through Richard Demarco in the European context - a study on the eponymous artist, animator, gallerist, and promoter of the visual and performing arts.

ART & SCIENCE

An important strand of her work involves collaboration between Art and Science. Her work with the Genome Diagram developed by Dr Ian Toth and Dr Leighton Pritchard at the Scottish Crop Research Institute resulted in a portfolio of work including installations, digital animation, prints and music. In 2013 Shemilt completed a major SciArt commission for theUniversity of Dundee, College of Life Science's new Centre for Translational & Interdisciplinary Research building: The Scales of Life, which embodies science and the visualisation process. She collaborated with the Regius Professor Michael Fergurson and the architect Jo White. On three facades of the CTIR building, 16 columns of large metal cladding panels incorporate her artistic abstractions which represent the four key scales of life: Molecular, Organellar, Cellular and Tissue. The cladding panels (1.5m wide x 3.6m high) are made from a high-quality anodised aluminium and are arranged vertically into groups of four panels. The panels address the essence of the four main scales of life and the intangibility of their size and dimensions. The visual abstractions reflect both an interpretive aesthetic approach, and the need to retain scientific recognition and accuracy. The main objective of the work is that the series of images reflect in a meaningful way the scientific research being undertaken within the CTIR building. The CTIR was officially opened by Sir Paul Nurse on 1 October 2014.

ARTISTIC PRACTICE

She has collaborated with the video artist Stephen Partridge on a number of installations, including "Rush" first exhibited at the Fieldgate Gallery, London and the most recent, "Quattro Minuti di Mezzogiorno", a HiDefinition Video installation. Exhibited in Fuoriluogo 15 - Una Regressione Motivata, Limiti Inchiusi Arte Contemporanea, Campobasso, Molise, Italy. December 2010, January 2011. The exhibition included work by Fausto Colavecchia (IT), Douglas Gordon (GB), and was curated by Deirdre MacKenna, Director of Stills - Scotland’s centre for photography in Edinburgh.Interest in Shemilt's early video and performance work has grown during the early 21st century. For example, the exhibition, SHE DEVIL 8, in Rome in 2016 she was described:

"The godmother of SHE DEVIL 8 is Elaine Shemilt with the video performance Doppelgänger. The work is part of a series of video experiments by women artists in the 1970s and 1980s, rediscovered and digitally remastered by the research project REWIND,.... Doppelgänger is one of two still existing videos of a series begun by Shemilt in 1974, salvaged in 2011. The term doppelgänger is used in German culture to indicate the evil twin (doppel / double, and gänger / goer). The doppelgänger of Elaine Shemilt is utterly feminine. The artist puts on makeup in front of the mirror in a ritual divided between the face and its reflected image that generates the double, the absolute protagonist of the finale."
Shemilt was featured in Gabriel Schor's book, The Feminist Avant Garde, Art from the 1970s in 2016.In 2018. several of her works from the 1970s were acquired by the SAMMLUNG VERBUND art collection in Vienna,[and her work is in a touring exhibition, "The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s", showing in Stavanger(Norway), Brno (Czech Republic), Barcelona (Spain), and New York City.
In 2019 she and Venetian artist Federica Marangoni collaborated on "Parallel Dialogues Through Video and Time" at Venice’s Court of Casa Golden. The exhibition, curated by Laura Leuzzi and Iliyana Nedkova with the assistance of Adam Lockhart, tours to Scotland in 2020.Articles and Journal Papers reflect the renewed interest in Shemilt's works. A series of embossed prints were acquired in 2020 by the National Museums of Northern Ireland, Belfast

Education/Academic qualification

Master of Arts, Royal College of Art

Award Date: 1 Jan 1979

Bachelor of Arts, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Award Date: 1 Jan 1976

Keywords

  • NE Print media
  • video art
  • installation
  • sculpture
  • printmaking
  • feminist art

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