Chroma Calls is an installation of twenty abstract sculptures extending along a four-mile (6.5km) stretch of the Forth and Clyde Canal, which crosses central Scotland. It was initially presented as part of Canal Encounters – a month-long celebration of Scotland’s Forth & Clyde Canal. Suspended from various species of tree on both sides of the canal, each sculpture is composed of multicoloured minimal abstract shapes designed to mirror the colour palette of one of the bird species which nests on or visits the canal area on their migratory journey, such as the swallow, tufted duck, kingfisher, and mute swan.
The sculptures were created in collaboration with artist and composer, Lars Koens. Designed to move in the wind, the sculptures created sounds that gently carried along the canal. The Chroma Calls sculptures drew attention to the colours and colour combinations which, although present within this landscape, might remain unnoticed, due to the fleeting presence of the birds and the limitations of human perception. The sculptures also revealed certain colours that might not be easy to spot, like the kingfisher’s exuberant coat of bright oranges, greens and blues. Furthermore, the sculptures drew attention to some colours of the familiar species that might be hidden or not easily discerned, as in the case with some water birds – the ash-black colour of mute swan’s feet, or the delicate blue beak of a tufted duck, or the red of the coot’s eye.
I worked with ecologist and Scottish Canals Environmental Manager, Olivia Lassiere, to select some of the most iconic bird species to feature in the canal and the adjacent walking and cycling path. Each sculpture, through an abstracted arrangement of colour, conjures the particular chromatic patterns by which each species attracts others of its kind.
In the process of colour coding, I discovered the complexity of bird colours, with the colour palettes of birds depending on a range of variables, including age, gender, season, lighting and is furthermore different per individual. The sculptures are made out of wood, primarily birch and bamboo, and utilising eco-friendly paint, in keeping with the celebration of the Forth & Clyde canal ecology.
In addition to the birds’ body parts, the minimal shapes of the sculptures – circles, semi-circles and lines – echo the canal’s industrial and natural features: the canal, its locks and its bridges relate to linear shapes, and the Falkirk Wheel has circular and semicircular shapes. As a result, Chroma Calls is a conjunction of the heritage, environment and communities of the waterway.
As part of the Canal Encounters, we ran a workshop where children and their parents took part in creating abstract collages based on the colours of the birds.
This project was supported by the Falkirk Community Trust, Scottish Canals, and the University of Edinburgh.