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University of Stirling’s Artist in Residence creating a buzz on campus

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Alec Finlay’s sculpture, The Bee Library (2012).
Detail from Alec Finlay’s sculpture, The Bee Library (2012). A collection of nests constructed from bee-themed books, bamboo, wire-netting, and water-proofing, each offers shelter for solitary bees, the UK population of which is in decline. Photo by Luke Allan, 2012.

Artist, poet and University of Stirling alumnus Alec Finlay has returned to his alma mater as the University’s first Artist in Residence, to create new bee-themed public sculptures for the University art collection.

Alec – who is being funded by the Leverhulme Trust – will work collaboratively between Stirling’s Schools of Natural Sciences and Arts & Humanities to research the subject of apiculture - the science and culture of beekeeping. 

He will produce a ‘creative survey’ of the UK’s bee population, translating his research into poetry and sculpture and installing permanent artworks on campus, some of which will function dually as bee nests.

Alec Finlay says: “Stirling is renowned worldwide for its scientific bee research, particularly its work on the destructive impact of insecticides on wild bee populations, so I will be able to draw on this expertise and use it to inform my work.

“My research will consider both the ‘social’ honeybee and ‘solitary’ bees and wasps, whose numbers are in steep decline despite their crucial role as pollinators.  Of the 254 species of ‘solitary’ bee found in the UK, 25 per cent are now in the Red Data Book of endangered species - a concern of which I hope my work will raise awareness.”

The Artist in Residence’s research at Stirling will be wide-reaching, exploring the symbolism of bees in ancient myth and philosophy, and the recurring motif of the bee in accounts of politics, economics and society.

It will also look at contemporary scientific studies of bee communication, cognitive behaviour and honeycomb construction and consider bees’ relevance to a diverse range of subjects including architecture, Systems Theory, informatics and social networks.

For the duration of his residency, Alec will be hosted by the University’s Chair in Creative Writing and multi award-winning poet, Professor Kathleen Jamie – who shares his creative interests in the natural world.

Professor Jamie says: “My own interests in nature and the relationship between humans and non-humans bear a close resemblance to Alec’s concerns.  His residency will provide the campus with thought-provoking artworks and open new channels of public engagement, so he is a tremendous asset to the University.

“His project will reinforce Stirling’s reputation for multidisciplinary research and cross-cultural innovation, as well as its longstanding commitment to making art an integral part of the everyday campus experience.”

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