Crude Floral

Tonya McMullan

2022 Ecology Salt Science

Tonya McMullan has been looking at future plans for the stretch of coast along the Seafield promenade and considering them alongside our need to adapt proactively to radical environmental change.

Dense with wildflowers, insects, pedestrians and people on bikes who use Seafield for foraging, dog walking, commuting, swimming, running and more, the area has been overlooked for development until recently unlike other parts of the city, possibly because of the stigma and smell attached to the nearby sewage works. 

McMullan is looking at plants along the shore, water collected from the sea, and air particles. She is combining these elements to create a new scent sculpture bound together with salt from the Firth of Forth. Working with ASCUS lab, McMullan is also looking at worldwide recipes for recreating bodies of water and incorporating these techniques into her work.

Tonya McMullan situates her work amidst communities using long-term engagement to make context-specific, process-based, participatory and perfo rmative installations that foreground ecological concerns. McMullan has immersed herself in the world of insects for several years: ongoing projects with beekeeping, urban agri- culture and pollinators have developed into explorations of our sensory and extra-sensory connections. 

Past projects include The Lure of Tomorrow’s Harvests (2020), an installation commissioned by Talbot Rice Gallery comprising an archive of Edinburgh honey collected during lockdown, and There is something in the æther (2021), a scent and hand sanitiser created for TULCA festival in Galway to encourage people to recollect smell memories and consider our relationship with the environment past present and future. 

Commissioned Works & Events:

Crude Floral, Art Walk Porty Hub, September 2022 (scent, card, seamix)
Salt Works Group exhibition, mote102 102 Ferry Road Edinburgh, March 2023 (tomato plants, compost, found tarpaulin and fur coat, drawings, photographs, scent)

Ecological Explorations at Seafield, November 2022
Beginning with a talk by Lyle Boyle, Seagrass Officer from The Ecology Centre, and Leonie Alexander, Ecologist from the Edinburgh Shoreline project, this session involved the creation of paintings based on smell and local ecology

Painting with Synthetic Seawater Workshop, September 2022
McMullan shares her research into synthetic sea water in this workshop, which is used by scientists to simulate the theoretical content of natural sea water in lab environments. Participants create a batch of synthetic sea water and use it to produce watercolour paintings of the Firth of Forth. 

Seafield Scent Identifying Workshop, September 2022
McMullan leads a small group walk to discuss the scents that can be detected in the air, land and sea, and begin to make scent diaries. The group will then work together in a makeshift beach laboratory, combining synthetic seawater and other materials to create a new scent.  

Writing commissioned in partnership with MAP Magazine, published in SALT journal published by Art Walk Press 2023:

The Smellscape of the Seascape on Tonya McMullan by Jan Prichard – available to read on MAP

All photos Ellie J McMaster

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