FISHING by Stephanïe Vandëm – A New Exhibition Inspired by Scottish Fishing Communities and Seascapes

FISHING by Stephanïe Vandëm – Opens 3 May until 15 June

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh EH1 1SR

A new exhibition inspired by Scottish fishing communities and seascapes will go on display at the Scottish Storytelling Centre as part of the TRACS programme during Edinburgh Tradfest from 3 May to 15 June 2024.

Artist Stephanïe Vandëm imaginatively combines oils and mixed media materials salvaged from harbours, beaches and shipyards to create large-scale works that evoke the linkages between the communities of the North East of Scotland and their fishing heritage. 

Drawing from the rich traditions of Renaissance and Latin American art, FISHING will present 13 semi-sculptural works that explore the pressing environmental and identity concerns of our time. 

Rubber gloves, ropes, nets, buoys, and crab shells are used to give tri dimensionality and texture to the works. Plastic sushi fish drained of their soy lifeforce cling to the surfaces making us ponder their infinite life expectancy and the material’s detriment to all sea and land-living creatures. Screws, nails, and other metal bits left by the artist’s late husband populate the paintings’ surfaces recreating the colours and textures of a busy shipyard. Pinecones turned into lobster tails; twigs turned into crab’s eyes all used to create compositions that connect us emotionally to Time, Identity, Heritage, and the Environment.

Artist Stephanie Vandëm explains: “My work is firmly rooted in classical principles, merging time-tested oil painting techniques and semi-abstraction, to pressing contemporary themes and universal human struggles, resulting in monumental semi-sculptural paintings.

“The pieces resemble an archaeological find sedimented in cement, sand, metal and found objects. They create puzzles, connecting the personal, political, and spiritual elements of my own life and practice. Aberdeenshire’s motto, ‘from mountain to sea’ inspired me throughout this collection.”

Sculptural pieces in the exhibition include boxes encased in sand, cement and the ‘bones’ of a metal creel looking like they have been hauled from the sea depths, bearing witness to the many lives lost across generations and continents. 

The tactile and playful nature of the work invites audiences to interact with it by moving the ropes and nets, to create new images and build stories within stories to explore beneath the surface layers leaving space for personal interpretations.

Steve Byrne, Director of TRACS said: “As someone who grew up on Scotland’s east coast, I was immediately struck by the familiarity and strong imagery of Stephanie’s work. It resonated with me and the sense of place I feel about that part of the world. I recognised the shapes and colours of the kind of work taking place in harbours up and down the coast that have been a key part of local communities for decades.

In celebrating the contribution of fisher folk, the exhibition gives voice to those involved in a precarious industry that has so much heritage, tradition and craft to explore, which often mean a great deal to fisher folk and their families. The works also challenge us to think about our impact on the environment through the inclusion of shore finds, opening up conversations around sustainability. At TRACS we look forward to helping safeguard that living heritage and lore, the traditions and customs of fisher communities through our developing work with Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Scotland.” 

The exhibition will also be complemented by information panels on traditional craftwork related to fishing communities, in partnership with the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther. 

About the artist

Brazilian by birth and educated in Paris, London, New York, and Florence Stephanïe Vandëm worked extensively abroad before settling in the Northeast of Scotland. Her style lies between realism and abstraction, painting and sculpture with a strong sense of narrative derived from the artist’s Latin American roots. The artist’s creative practice is a fusion of videography, soundscapes, installations, social media participation and mixed-media that creates engaging and powerful contemporary pieces.

With some awards under her belt, Stephanïe Vandëm works in her studio between the mountains and the sea in the idyllic Scottish countryside. The artist’s strong background in the world of portraiture also sees her work on many private commissions, including painting the formal portrait of the Bishop of Aberdeen. Her pieces can be found in many national and international private collections such as the luxury Fife Arms Hotel, owned by international art dealer Iwan Wirth.

FISHING is part of TRACS’ (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) programme of events showcasing Scotland’s traditional arts and cultural heritage.  TRACS has been recently appointed as an advisor to UNESCO on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Scotland and this exhibition showcases ICH in practice through highlighting the unique ways of life, practices, and rich folklore of fishing communities on the east coast of Scotland. 

Event Information