Specialising in early medieval art, particularly of Britain and Ireland, Heather’s research questions how the visual and material nature of an object shape the viewer's experience, focusing on understudied or neglected aspects of the artwork and its context: Her publication ‘The Performative Cross’ considers the interaction of rainfall on the Ruthwell Cross and Pictish sculpture; her monograph, Word and Image in the Book of Kells, explores how marginal creatures direct the reader's gaze, and ‘Art and Avatar: Identity and Gesture in a Virtual World' analyses the intimate relationship engendered by the shape and scale of the Lewis chessmen. Other publications focus on the role of colour and number in the ornamentation of the Lindisfarne Gospels’ Canon Tables and the carpet pages of the Book of Durrow.
Heather was part of the curatorial team for The Celts exhibition at the British Museum and later at the National Museum of Scotland in 2015. She was awarded a Leverhulme-funded research fellowship, From 2D to 4D: Ireland’s Medieval Crosses in Time, Motion and the Environment in 2017. Drawing from phenomenology and the ecological turn, the project investigated how changing viewpoints, scale, light, weather and distances shape and animate these monuments. The study also analysed how the depth of carving, physical landscape and the gestures and glances of the sculpted figures dictate the viewer’s response. A recent article 'Between the Embodied Eye and Living World: Clonmacnoise’s Cross of the Scriptures' (Art Bulletin 2020) is a case study from this project.
After three years as Head of History of Art, Heather has a Paul Mellon Senior Fellowship to complete her book project, Art and the Living Frame in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland (Cambridge University Press). Heather is also co-editing a book with Rachel Moss, Trinity College Dublin, Irish and Scottish Art, c. 900-1900: Survivals and Revivals (Edinburgh University Press).
A full list of Heather’s publications can be found at:
Edinburgh Research Explorer: Outputs