Portraits from the Precipice
Octopus Energy and Artfinder have joined forces to inspire climate action through art
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Published: 19 December 2019
This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod
This article first appeared in our Consumer Revolution issue of My Green Pod Magazine, released on 19 Dec 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
Main image: I told you so, by Kirstie Taylor
This winter, Octopus Energy will join forces with Artfinder, a digital platform that supports inclusive, equal-opportunities art across the globe, to translate our collective experiences of the climate crisis into the world’s biggest outdoor environmental art exhibition.
A message for COP26
The goal is to use art to inspire action against climate change – and the exhibition will send a strong message to global leaders when they convene in the UK for the COP26 climate summit in 2020.
Given that global CO2 emissions must fall every year from 2020 to avoid catastrophic warming (1.5ºc by 2100), it’s important for every leader at COP26 to understand the strength of popular support for climate action.
Art and imagery are crucial here; while traditional climate communication can be inaccessible, art offers a valuable medium for engaging with climate ideas.
Creativity can inspire action by moving people and opening new avenues for exploring complex issues. As research organisation Climate Visuals has found: ‘the images that define climate change shape the way it is understood and acted upon.’
Impossible to ignore
In a bold foray into the world of climate art, Octopus Energy has partnered with Artfinder’s impressive global community of artists to launch Portraits from the Precipice. It will be the largest ever outdoor exhibition of climate art, specifically aimed at driving climate action.
Since 25 November, artistic explorations of the climate crisis have been projected on billboards across the UK for millions to see. They have appeared on roadsides and train and tube stations, and have illuminated some of the most iconic streets in London, Leicester and Brighton.
The goal is to make climate change, and the real impact it’s having on humans around the world, impossible to ignore – for the public and also the world leaders arriving for COP26.
Submissions from Artfinder’s online artist community are still coming in thick and fast from around the world. The very best pieces will be curated by the Artfinder Collective, and in February one artist will be awarded the first annual Climate Change Art Prize of £10,000.
Greg Jackson, Octopus Energy’s CEO, sees the collaboration as a new way to help more people really think about the climate crisis. ‘Art has always been a key vehicle to visualise difficult topics’, he tells us, ‘and no topic is more difficult than the ongoing destruction of our planet.’
Now it’s your turn! Octopus is inviting everyone – regardless of age or ability – to get involved. Submit your artwork to firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to see your (or your family’s) art on billboards across the UK! The winning entry will also receive an eco-holiday.
The brief here is exactly the same; artists must answer the question: ‘What does the climate crisis mean to you?’, using the most sustainable materials possible.
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Unifying our human experience
Art has a particularly important role to play in unifying our disparate experiences of climate breakdown. Around the world – whether you’re a commuter or a world leader, a small business owner or a school student – we all, to some extent, bear witness to the real, emotional experience of being a human in the midst of a climate catastrophe.
The changes we are witnessing in the UK – hotter summers, fiercer floods and coastal erosion – may be less severe than the stronger storms, droughts and famines rocking the Global South, but these wildly different experiences must be brought together as we tackle a shared cause and encourage a shared solution: the reduction of carbon emissions.
Capturing change through art
Sandy Dooley is one of the artists involved; she spoke to us about how her work will reflect changes she has witnessed in her lifetime. ‘I live in rural Kent, lots of my artwork has been informed by the local landscape and the changes that have been happening to that landscape’, Sandy reveals. ‘For this project I’ve decided to do a triptych – three paintings that fit together – exploring those changes.’
‘Some are bittersweet’, Sandy continues. ‘We now have a thriving vineyard and wine industry – those vineyards are definitely something different, a shifting baseline. The fishing boats down at Hastings are still pretty, and almost decorative, but fish quotas are lower than they have ever been, and the crops in the fields have changed so much.’
Tapping into another theme that is central to Portraits from the Precipice, Sandy explained how important it is that her materials are ‘appropriate for the task at hand’. She paints with Graphenstone’s environmentally friendly graphene-based paint, which actually absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. Three 15-litre buckets of this mineral-based paint soak up more than 10Kg of CO2 in a year.
Another artist involved, Margaret Mallows, explains that while the responsibility to effect change rests with governments and corporations, it also belongs to each and every one of us. ‘We can all make a difference to our lifestyles which will help,’ Margaret tells us. With this in mind, she has created bold, WWII-inspired ‘DO NOT’ posters with messages like ‘DO NOT KEEP CALM WE HAVE TO ACT NOW’.
What does it mean to you?
Octopus Energy and Artfinder want everyone – artist or amateur – to have the chance to play a part in Portraits from the Precipice. Whoever you are, you have a unique experience to share that will help to strengthen our collective drive for action.
The community competition (see below) is open to all; your artistic response to the question ‘What does the climate crisis mean to you?’ could be posted on billboards around the UK – and help world leaders to understand the huge public will for climate action.