New Exhibition from Scottish Artist Katie Paterson at Ingleby Gallery This Spring

A new exhibition by Glasgow born artist Katie Paterson, that tells the birth and life of our planet in a single object, is to go on display for the first time at Edinburgh’s Ingleby Gallery this Spring. 

Katie is widely regarded as one of the leading artists of her generation working at the nexus of art and science and has been represented by Ingleby since 2010. The single object at the heart of the new exhibition is one that uses dust gathered from material dating from pre-solar times to those of the present.

On a single plinth will sit a glass urn, the ancient form of funerary vessel, while around the walls a long shelf will hold 370 small vials, each containing a tablespoon of collected dust (21g – the posited weight of a human soul) each one a layer of time waiting to be poured into the urn. The urn and vials were made by the glass-blowing team of the National Glass Centre.

The dust has been obtained through collaboration with institutions and collections worldwide and gathered from the objects of our most archaic ancestors, through to fossil fuel detritus, dead coral, war rubble and dust from the Atomic bomb. Collectively, the vials map the story of the earth from before its existence to the present day, and offer a lament for the planet, a warning, a requiem on the theme of extinction.

The grim list of ingredients in these final layers echoes the environmentalist George Monbiot’s warning that “the crisis is not imminent; the crisis is here”.

Katie Paterson remarks “I’ve always made artworks that deal with nature and time and climate, but this is the first that isn’t afraid to be political and confrontational… It is both celebratory and mythical, and yet it is also the saddest work I’ve ever made, mourning life lost and expressing a dystopian vision.”

A publication devoted to this engagement with deep time and the history of the planet will be published in the summer of 2022, with an individual commentary on every layer by chair of the Anthropocene Working Group, Jan Zalasiewicz and essays by David Farrier (author of Footprints – in Search of Future Fossilsand Anthropocene Poetics) and Jay Griffiths (author of Wild, An Elemental Journey). 

Katie Paterson’s exhibition opens at Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh on 9th April and the vials of dust will be poured, layer by layer, by invited guests and members of the public during the opening hours of the gallery, until the close of the show on 11th June when the Urn travels to the Chapter House of Durham Cathedral. Anyone interested in taking part in the pouring can sign up by contacting

This exhibition in the UK coincides with a major institutional presentation of work by Katie Paterson in Galleri F15 in Moss, Norway in Spring 2022, the 2022 Future Library handover, in Oslo, Norway in June 2022, and the inauguration of Mirage, the first public sculpture to be commissioned by Apple for their HQ in California.

Irene Brown

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