Women artists bring new perspective to North Sea oil industry

at the Scottish Maritime Museum’s Meet the Artist series


Sue Jane Taylor – 2pm Saturday 25 August

Kate Downie – 2pm Saturday 8 September


Almost half a century since the first North Sea oil flowed, artists Sue Jane Taylor and Kate Downie will share their personal and artistic experiences of what remains largely an all-male and closed environment at the Scottish Maritime Museum on the Harbourside in Irvine.

Sue Jane Taylor and Kate Downie will take part in the Scottish Maritime Museum’s Meet the Artist : Tea, Talk and Tour series, which celebrates the Museum’s new art exhibition Maritime Perspectives : Collecting Art of a Seafaring Nation.

The exhibition is the first full showing of the Museum’s new national art collection, which features works by both artists as well as artists including FCB Cadell, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Muirhead Bone and John Bellany.

Sue Jane Taylor, whose exhibition Age of Oil will open at the Museum in 2019, will share her experiences at 2pm on Saturday 25 August.

Her passion for capturing life on the oil rigs of the North Sea stirred as a child growing up in the Highlands during the oil boom of the 1970s as the Nigg and Ardersier construction yards flanked her home on the Black Isle, radically changing the area.

Later, as an art school graduate, Sue Jane was invited to create works of art celebrating Glasgow’s Stirling Shipping Company’s tenth anniversary in the North Sea oil industry, beginning her artistic  journey in gale force weather.


As Sue Jane Taylor remembers:

“It was a dark stormy December night when I boarded the Stirling Teal supply vessel on Pocra Quay, Aberdeen. In mostly gale force weather, I spent a week turned and tossed about in an unknown world, a world of adventure and hardship, an all-male environment. Such was the visual stimulus that this became the genesis of my work on the North Sea oil industry.” 

During her talk, Sue Jane will give an insight into her work over the ensuing thirty years, during which she has gained access to extremely remote and publicly prohibited offshore installations to explore the relationship between art, environment and industry.

Kate Downie, who will talk at the Museum at 2pm on Saturday 8th September, will share the inspirations informing her works including those created during a residency on the North Alwyn oil platform owned by Total Oil Marine in 1988. 


Fiona Greer, Curator of Art at the Scottish Maritime Museum, says:

“This is a fabulous opportunity to hear two of Scotland’s most talented maritime artists share their experiences of a life very few people see at first hand. It will be fascinating to listen to Sue Jane and Kate as they describe life on the oil rigs during the boom years, a rare experience for women at the time.”

Other exhibiting artists set to talk at the Museum over coming months are Will Maclean (Saturday 6 October) and James Watt (Thursday 18 October).

Artist Helen Bellany will also give a talk about life with her partner, the critically acclaimed artist the late John Bellany, whose work is also currently on show within the exhibition. 

Helen’s talk will take place at 2pm on Saturday 29 September as part of the Tidelines Book Festival.

The Scottish Maritime Museum’s Maritime Perspectives : Collecting Art of a Seafaring Nation exhibition runs until 21 October. Entry is included in the Museum admission.

Tickets for all Meet the Artist : Tea, Talk and Tour events are available at www.scottishmaritimemuseum.org or by telephoning 01294 278283 

Booking highly recommended.


Issued on behalf of the Scottish Maritime Museum by 

Joanna Harrison, Mobile: 07884 187404.



Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine and Dumbarton

Established in 1983, the Scottish Maritime Museum is recognised as the principal resource for material relating to Scottish Maritime history, in particular shipbuilding and marine engineering.   

The Scottish Maritime Museum is based on the Harbourside in Irvine, North Ayrshire, and Dumbarton.

The buildings and sites which the Scottish Maritime Museum occupies are part of the collection themselves: The Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine is housed within the Linthouse, the A listed former Engine Shop of Alexander Stephen and Sons which was built in 1872 and salvaged and relocated from their derelict Linthouse shipyard in Govan during 1991. 

The Scottish Maritime Museum in Dumbarton is located on the site of the former innovative William Denny Shipyard and features the world’s first commercial ship model experiment tank, the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank.