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Great White Commuter by Scapa Joe
Scapa Joe

Scapa Joe "If nobody tries, then it doesn't change, does it?"

Artist duo Scapa Joe seek to change minds, habits and the future through their hard-hitting environmental artwork.

Artists Caroline and Dean - aka Scapa Joe - collaborate to create climate change art with the purpose of raising awareness of the climate emergency. They believe that if everyone takes responsibility and plays their part, it will be possible to avert the worst elements of the oncoming catastrophe.

I chatted to Caroline to hear more about Scapa Joe’s work, their upcoming exhibitions, and an unexpected discovery at the beach.

So, first up, what are you currently working on that excites you the most?

We were working on new sculptures but then I put some paintings into the Discerning Eye Exhibition and got accepted. We're going down to Mall Galleries in London for that, which is amazing because there were about 7,500 entries and they picked four of ours out.

And we're going to do some new stuff. Because of the war in Ukraine, the worrying thing is they're going to start with more oil production and fracking rather than looking at alternative energy, renewables and everything. So we're going to do a lot more of that kind of work, that's what we're aiming at doing, just trying to raise awareness.

The new sculptures that we’ve started working on are all obviously about climate change. It's mainly polar bears at the minute. I'm doing polar bear painting, and then we're going to start some polar bear sculptures as well. We did one a while ago, an iceberg that had Donald Trump's head in it with the polar bear peeing on his head. That was when he came out saying that climate change isn't real, and it's all a lie.

Angel of the North by Scapa Joe

Angel of the North

Scapa Joe
Big Ben Big Freeze by Scapa Joe

Big Ben Big Freeze

Scapa Joe

And why is this work so important to you?

It's the West, the richer countries that are mainly increasing the problems with climate change, but then it's the poorer countries that get affected by it more. They live more sustainably but they're the ones that are getting more affected, and I think we all need to do something about it.

So the aim through our art is to raise awareness, and hopefully if people just make a little change, like turning the heating down a couple of degrees - mind you everyone will be doing that anyway, because they'll not be able to afford it - but you know, buying second-hand clothes, buying less plastics, re-using a bottle, picking a bag of plastic or trash and binning it, just anything really that can help, then everybody can make a bit of a difference.

So, like with the whale, we made some whale tail flukes that are made out of plastic we picked up on the beaches. There's bits of old lighters and the plastic inserts for tampons, you know, which aren't nice, but it needs doing. It increased awareness.

Partygate at no 10 by Scapa Joe

Partygate at no 10

Scapa Joe

What would you like, want or need from the community to make your next steps as successful as possible? And what's the best thing that could happen?

I think it would be nice to have an exhibition that goes around different places, where we have the paintings and sculptures together. We did a sculpture of a tidal wave going over the Statue of Liberty, and one of her drowning, and then did a painting of a tidal wave going over the Statue of Liberty, so to have them going around together and to make people think, well, that could actually happen.

We've done quite a lot of work with London flooding - and the reality is London is going to flood. So by sending [the artwork] around and people seeing it, maybe it makes everybody think - make small changes, and especially governments [need to] make changes - you know, more renewables is what we need. That would be great, if we could have an exhibition that went to a lot of different galleries.

We did [an exhibition] in Orkney in 2019, which went really well. We had some fantastic feedback, then Covid came along, but I'm hoping that this one in London might start the ball rolling a bit more with raising awareness. We’ve also got an exhibition at the Frontier Gallery in Orchard Square. We've got a sort of post-apocalyptic Pripyat girl who's in a dodgem car, which is anti-nuclear. The problem with nuclear [energy] is what you do with all the waste afterwards, isn't it? So we need more renewables rather than nuclear.

Statue of Liberty by Scapa Joe

Statue of Liberty

Scapa Joe
Going Underground by Scapa Joe

Going Underground

Scapa Joe

You recently won two awards for your artwork. Can you tell me about these?

They were with Painters Online Magazine and Artists & illustrators, who have an exhibition running at Patchings Art Centre in Nottingham. There's a group exhibition next October with ten artists and we're going to be in that, and we also won the British Contemporary Artist award. So that's pretty good. Then we're in the Discerning Eye Exhibition in London, which I'm super amazed at because I never thought we'd get in there. It’s a really prestigious gallery so we're going to that in November.

You're both avid scuba divers and beach collectors. What are some of the weird and wonderful things you've found that have informed your work?

I think the most amazing thing I found was in Morocco. [I was} walking on the beach and found a live hand grenade. I thought it was a lighter or something, and my boyfriend was like no! Luckily I didn't pull the pin out.

You find things in the UK, sometimes from all over the world, because all over the world people just lob stuff, so it gets washed all over. I go running by the canal and I can't believe how much crap people leave everywhere. Take it with you, don't lob it in the sea or the rivers!

There's a beach we go to on the Isle of Skye and there's just tons and tons of rubbish, like fishing nets, all sorts of different kinds of plastic and everything. It amazes me how much rubbish is on that one beach and you think, well if there's that much rubbish on that one beach and in the oceans, altogether it's frightening. So we help out with beach cleans whenever we are near the beach, but even when we're not, I'll take a bag and pick up rubbish, fag ends or whatever, and make sculptures and things.

Angel of the North by Scapa Joe

Angel of the North

Scapa Joe

And finally, what's on the horizon for Scapa Joe in the coming months? I know you've talked a little bit about exhibitions already but have you got anything else coming up?

We’ve just done a painting for The Shark Trust which is going to be printed and auctioned off to raise funds for the charity. We’d like to do more work with charities, if they want to exhibit [our artwork} or if they'd like to sell prints or make cards from the pictures or sculptures, and just do anything to raise awareness. I've had a couple of teachers be in touch, wanting to know if we've got any prints, and if they can use them in school to get the kids involved.

We're just a couple of artists making art but if everybody can do a little bit, then there's hope that we can start making a splash. The problem is we've got that many ideas, it's just finding time to do them all! But you've got to try, haven't you? If nobody tries, then it doesn't change, does it?

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)

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