Repel and attract

Tonya McMullan

2023 Planting Vessel Water

Developing connections between waste, water, ecology and scent, Tonya McMullan explores the growth of tomato plants

Inspired by the unexpected presence of tomato seedlings thriving in the water treatment plant at Seafield, TONYA McMULLAN develops connections between waste, water, ecology and scent. This work also connects to the artist’s love of community gardens, several of which thrive in the areas around Seafield and Portobello and are at the forefront of innovative approaches to water collection and storage.

For Art Walk Porty, McMullan is collaborating with Restalrig-based community group, The Ripple Project, looking at methods of rainwater collection and community growing to create a scented water-collection sculpture. Made from discarded plastic and organic material, this work is informed by McMullan’s interest in interactions between humans and insects, as well as the unique scent and growth patterns of tomato plants.

Top image: Installation at mote102 (Art Walk Extended, September 2023)
Photo: Sally Jubb Photography

Images from Water Collection Device Workshop at Craigentinny Community Garden (Photos: Ellie J McMaster)

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

Past projects include Crude Floral (2022), a series of scent explorations with Art Walk Projects; 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 relationships with the environment past present and future; and The Lure of Tomorrow’s Harvests (2020), an installation commissioned by Talbot Rice Gallery comprising an archive of Edinburgh honey collected during lockdown.

Images from Water Collection Device Workshop with The Ripple Project (August 2023).

Bottom image: Guided tour to Seafield Water Treatment Plant (September 2023).
Photos: Tonya McMullan and Rosy Naylor


July-August 2023 Workshops with The Ripple Project, Craigentinny
September 2023 during Art Walk Porty:
VESSEL Group Exhibition, Art Walk Hub Portobello
VESSEL Group Exhibition, mote102 Ferry Rd Leith
Rainwater Collection Workshop, Craigentinny Community Garden
Seafield Water Treatment Plant Drawing Tour
Conversing with Tomatoes Event with wild foods forager Judith Lamb