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The Biosemiotic Drawing Series.

2008 - 2020 ongoing

A series of direct observational drawings

of birdsong and soundscape.

Silverpoint, carbon and graphite

on prepared 220gsm BFK Rives.

76 x 56 cm.



Work from this series is exhibited regularly as an evolving project.

Exhibitions to date include

  • The Ruskin, University of Lancaster (2020).

  • The Borders Art Fair (2020) 

  • Vane Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne (2013)

  • The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.

  • The Banqueting Hall, Newcastle

  • The Drawing Research Network Conference, Loughborough

  • The Customs House, South Shields

Secondary developments deriving from this primary observed work exist in several other formats and materials, ranging from glass and sculptural pieces to text works. These include work with sonograms, notational works on dawn chorus, and collaborations with sound artists and musicians through analagous and metaphorical statements concerning our human and environmental interface.

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From the exhibition "Observations Not Taken Today"

Vane Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne. 2013.


Jennie Speirs Grant presents a series of drawings transcribed directly from spring birdsong. Using a system of visual notation, each is a representation of an ever-changing soundscape. The series explores Speirs Grant’s interest in drawing as a means of collecting data from the world. In this instance, the works are sequences of data extracted from a living environment. They differ from the more usual forms of observational drawing in that the information gathered is auditory rather than visual.

Originally constructed as a rural retreat by industrialist William George Armstrong in the 1860s, Jesmond Dene, now a public park, is a narrow, steep-sided, ravine complete with artificial crags and waterfalls. Bordering the Newcastle suburb of Jesmond, the dene is a place of environmental sensitivity and habitat diversity. The sounds collected here and transcribed by Speirs Grant are made up of the calls of many species of woodland birds, complex and highly variable. They are affected by ever changing influences: light levels, cloud and leaf cover, temperature, wind, seasonal changes of behaviour, and the activity of predators. Each soundscape therefore is unique and unrepeatable; the drawing process becomes an encounter unique in its outcome, unknowable in advance.


The separation between the living world of nature and the man-made environment is further emphasised by dislocation of this work to a gallery setting. The sounds are already receding in time and space, leaving only trace elements as evidence. And the observations not taken today will be lost forever …

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View of The Banqueting Hall, surrounded by Jesmond Dene.

A rich habitat of mixed ancient native wooodland and 19th century landscaping of introduced and exotic species. Species present include native resident woodland birds ranging from goldcrest to song thrush, summer migrants such as Chiffchaff and Blackcap and water birds, for example Grey Wagtail, Moorhen, Kingfisher and Mallard.

The Biosemiotic Drawings are occassionally also visited by more unexpected species such as Peacock and the chicken, domestic residents in Jesmond Dene and the Ring Necked Parakeet  both captive and invasive calls.

Historic reference points include " The Birds of Jesmond Dene"

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