The debut issue of Art North, looking back on it now, seems a long way off, but with hindsight one sees that the enduring theme that ran through that first issue concerned climate change and the environmental impact that our species is having on the planet. Across several key articles, artists and contributors alike documented the cultural initiatives that, in some way or other, referenced this impact. What is striking about our debut issue now, is just how much the Arctic was viewed through the lens of those who associate the far north with ice, tundra, and the many tropes that go with those features of The North as a ‘mindset’.
As I write these words now, however, I sit in a room that looks out across the far northern coastline of Scotland, and what I see is not ice, nor snow, but the grey-yellow plumes of smoke drifting across the northern reaches of Sutherland from wildfires that are burning not more than twenty kilometres from here. Firefighters are still at the scene of a large wildfire for a fifth day, approximately nine square miles (25 sq km) of peatland has already been lost since the fire broke out, and 5,000 acres (2,023 ha) of rich habitat has been lost too, I am told. Yet this has set me to wonder not just about the species lost to the fire (both flora and fauna) but also the very subject matter that fire represents for artists.