The Art of Politics

Britain’s overseas territories contain globally significant habitats and a wealth of biodiversity both on land and sea. These often-fragile environments, for which the UK retains broad responsibilities, also face serious threats such as invasive species, natural disasters, pollution, over-fishing and climate change.

This project built on research by geographer Dr Nichola Harmer into how UK parliamentarians view the relationship between the UK and the overseas territories. In collaboration with Exeter-based artist Naomi Hart, parliamentary debate from the past decade was analysed to understand how UK decision-makers view and respond to environmental challenges in the overseas territories.

Naomi created a series of paintings in response to the research findings. The art reflects a growing interest and concern among parliamentarians about the importance of biodiversity in the overseas territories and the need to support conservation and sustainability. Each painting features an iconic species from the overseas territories, overlaid on imagery that suggests the ongoing connections, responsibilities, power relations and sensitive colonial legacies between the UK and its territories in relation to environmental governance. They also denote the sometimes multiple meanings behind parliamentary rhetoric - the protection of wildlife while furthering UK global influence.

The project was presented at the Royal Geographical Society with IBG annual conference 2019 and will be exhibited at the University of Plymouth Sustainability Hub in the autumn of 2019.

Creating the paintings

The paintings have been made on eco-friendly, hand-made cotton rag paper. The paint is lime juice and hand-made, genuine indigo watercolour, diluted with seawater. 

The sustainability and fragility of the materials also speaks of the fragility of the environment and the level of responsibility that is required to protect and enhance the biodiversity and environments in the overseas territories.


<p>Creative Associates - Iguana, credit: Naomi Hart</p>
<p>Creative Associates, The Art of Politics: Green Turtle - artist: Naomi Hart</p>
<p>Creative Associates, The Art of Politics: Whaleshark - artist: Naomi Hart</p>
<p>Creative Associates - The Art of Politics: Wirebird, artist: Naomi Hart</p>
<p>Creative Associates, The Art of Politics: King Penguin, artist: Naomi Hart</p>
<p>Creative Associates, The Art of Politics: Sperm whale - artist: Naomi Hart</p>
<p>Creative Associates - The Art of Politics: Ebony, artist: Naomi Hart</p>

Naomi Hart

Naomi is an artist whose work looks at human interaction with the environment. She has worked with scientists and researchers for many years in remote parts of the planet and is keen to promote art-science collaboration. In 2017/18 she was Leverhulme artist in residence working with glaciologists at the University of Sheffield and on fieldwork with them in Svalbard. She has sailed to Greenland as expedition artist on board a traditional wooden sailing boat and worked with scientists in outback Australia and Canada.

Naomi has exhibited and presented at the Royal Geographical Society in London and been commissioned by The Crown Estate. Her work is in the permanent collection of National Museums Scotland and Exeter Cathedral as well as private collections around the world.

Find more of Naomi's work here

Creative Associates

The Sustainable Earth Institute's Creative Associates projects aim to explore novel and innovative ways of communicating research and develop a portfolio of case studies of the different creative approaches possible

Find out more about the initiatives

Image: Carey Marks/Creative Associates

Sustainable Earth Institute 

The Sustainable Earth Institute is about promoting a new way of thinking about the future of our world.

We bring researchers together with businesses, community groups and individuals to develop cutting-edge research and innovative approaches that build resilience to global challenges. We link diverse research areas across the University including science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business.

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