Fiona Glen

–– writer –– artist –– editor ––

~fresh work out with ~ CWYR zine, Strings ~


Image: research screenshot from TED Ed (linked)

transient guardians, guarding transience

Four cyanotype prints created with handpainted negatives, and a 6-minute textural audio track of a poem. Made on invitation for KNOCKvologan Studies’ Magical Octopus Sequel Exhibition, first presented from 21-28th November 2021 in KNOCKvologan Barn. In this project, artists with connections to the West coast of Scotland were given sections of the award-winning Magical Octopus riso print book to ‘translate’ into new artworks.

I worked with the eight pages produced by London’s Hato Press, who had created organic, wave-like imagery on a scanner bed in response to Miek Zwamborn’s poem – part of an original pack of materials drawn from the landscape (and seascape) of Mull. These photographs, maps, writings, and drawings had been sent to riso printmakers around the world, eliciting divergent, wandering responses from the same initial resources. You can see the pages created by Hato and other studios at the exhibition documentation link here.


Wandering outwards from Hato Press’s exploration of repetition in erosion, printmaking and tide cycles, I considered the relationship between cosmic bodies such as the moon, stars and turning Earth, and the microscopic bodies suspended in our seas. Inspired by the question of ‘who is guarding who’ from Miek’s original poem, my contribution was created in praise of phytoplankton: the collective of photosynthesising microorganisms on which nearly all life in our oceans depends. As the first ever beings to translate sunlight into fuel for life, phytoplankton were the original oxygenators of our atmosphere. To them, we owe our breath – and in concert with the sun that feeds them and the moon that moves the tides, these unsung caretakers of our planetary ecosystem currently retrieve as much CO2 from the atmosphere as all other plants on Earth put together. My spoken poem and cyanotypes combine mythological, cosmological and scientific imagery in an attempt to express this vast yet delicate system of interconnection.

Image: transient guardians, 1 of 4 cyanotype prints, Fiona Glen, 2021

Excerpts from guarding transience text:

here, the sun and moon preside over equal palaces of time

and the sun warms kind through every house

and the sun has cycles swimming in its skin

equal light: equal dark: equal light


more than the instant, its ebb and flow

on a thick waft of seaweed, the wellspring of love


*prismatic* these chosen mysteries

split crystal children

into six days of light life

pure sheer pellucid, they bask all through the photic zone

and burst:

bioluminescing swarming gorgeous eyeless glitter

teeming       microscopic mirrorworld

of and stars

a gravitas of spun glass

blind to its beauty

gods under micrograph clarity

an abundance, giving and giving

the unstill moment, again and again


in expansive suspense

we are tended by spirits as light as belief


constellations float in infinity pools and fortuna flies blindfolded

on our sphere of tumbling plenty


under oceans of oceans of stars

the coast advances and retreats like a cautious hunter or a suitor

speaking in silted gifts

courting the sea whose abrasive tongue is a

fizz of white noise and magnesium promises


hear the stones across the bay crackle

with the slow desire of a mountain’s pull


You can listen to the full textural poem recording in the Magical Octopus Sequel exhibition, here.

Magical Octopus Riso was initiated by Jo Frenken, a Maastricht-based risograph printing expert and long-term collaborator of Miek Zwamborn and KNOCKvologan Studies. Participating creators and studios were: Bananafish (Shanghai, CH), Calipso Press (Cali, CO), Corners Studio (Seoul, KR), Endless Editions (New York, USA), Gato Negro Ediciones (Mexico City, MX), Hand Saw Press (Tokyo, JP), Hato Press (London, UK), Issue Press (Grand Rapids, USA), (Antwerp, BE), Knust (Nijmegen, NL), Quintal Éditions (Paris, FR), Raum Press (Salamanca, SE), Risolve (Lancaster, USA), Sigrid Calon (Tilburg, NL), (Tilburg, NL) and the Jan van Eyck Academie (Maastricht, NL).

Contributing artists to Magical Octopus Sequel were: Filip Andel, Andy Crabb, Derek Crook, Seth Crook, Elaine Dempsey, Rufus Isabel Elliot, David Faithfull, Fiona Glen, Katie Harris-MacLeod, Monica Haddock, Mhairi Killin, Naoko Mabon, Sue Murdoch, Julia Parks, Giles Perring, Christina Riley, Brodie Sim, Jan Sutch Pickard, and Brian Thomas.