Karen Rann

The MA gave me an opportunity to re-assess my approaches to place and space. I also found writing as immersive as sculpting and went on to complete a PhD focussing on lines that represent the third dimension on paper maps (particularly contour lines).

Following five years immersion in academic research, my focus has shifted towards writing, presenting and pursuing self-generated projects that follow new lines of enquiry.

Deep Water
Deep Water Performance: Hungary, 1994
(see Research Led)


2018 - 22 Queen's University Belfast, PhD (AHRC funded).
2016 - 17 Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin, MA (distinction) Fine Art.
1992 - 94 Fine Art Academy, Budapest, Hungary, post-graduate Scholarship.
1979 - 82 Hull College of Higher Education, BA Hon's Fine Art.


Rann, Karen. “Horizontal hills: a creative historical geography of the emergence of contour lines in nineteenth-century Britain and Ireland.” (Doctoral Thesis, Queen’s University Belfast, 2022)

Rann, Karen. “The Appearance of Contour Lines on British and Irish Maps, 1778–1870.” Imago Mundi 72:2 (2020)
https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/4SIZEK4TYQPZRXFCM9M5/full?target=10.1080/03085694.2020.1748935 (1st 50 free) 

Rann, Karen and Robin S. Johnston. “Chasing the line: Hutton’s contribution to the invention of contours.” Journal of Maps (March, 2019)

Rann, Karen. The Great Lines Project: an exploration of the history of contour lines. Newcastle: self-published, 2016. ISBN 978-0-9933496-2-1.


Rann, Karen. “Military Lines: how the introduction of contours affected maps and movement.” In Claiming Land, Claiming Water, edited by Rachel Herrmann and Jessica Choppin Roney [9,000 words, forthcoming].

Field, Kenneth. “Raised Relief.” In Cartography. 236–7. London: Esri Press, 2018. [Two images with text].

Rann, K. & N. White. “Brodick Castle and Country Park, Isle of Arran.” In Artistic Reflections: Year of Natural Scotland, edited by S. Christie, 39–44. Creative Scotland, Glasgow: Bain & Bain, 2017.

Rann, K. & V. M. Sturdza. “Imagination in Bukarest.” In Mapping Culture: Aspekte der Kulturvermittlung in Südosteuropa, edited by KulturKontakt, 101–114 Vienna: Erhard Löcker, 2012.

Rann, K. “Place.” In A Widening Field: Journeys in Body and Imagination, edited by M. Tuffnell & C. Crickmay, 167 & 225. Alton, Hampshire: Dance Books Ltd, 2004. [Two images with texts]


ICA Commission on the History of Cartography, The Surveying Turn in Cartography, Staatsbibliothek, Berlin, Experimental Lines: drawing water on maps. October 2022.

Charles Close Society AGM, online, Contours: lines of subversion? August 2020

Lines on a Map: Crafting and Contesting Borders, British Library, London, Lines of Subversion? December 2019.

International Conference on the History of Cartography, Amsterdam. Paper: A line drawn: the tortuous progress of contours onto British Maps. July 2019.

International Cartography Conference, Tokyo. Paper: Reconstructing the lost contours of Charles Hutton. Karen Rann a, David Fairbairn b*, Ella Southern c. *Corresponding author. July 2019. https://www.abstr-int-cartogr-assoc.net/1/307/2019/ica-abs-1-307-2019.html

Durham and Newcastle Postgraduate Workshop “Authorial Voices across Time, Space and Cultures”. Paper: The Power of the Written Word in Ephemeral Art. May 2019.

Charles Close Society, Cambridge University Library. Talk: The Great Lines Project: Charles Hutton’s contribution to the invention of contours. October 2018.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre, “Lines of Attraction”. Talk: Exploring the invention of contours and other depictions of mountain on map. April 2018.

Cultural Significance of Place Research Group, Newcastle University. Paper: A History of the Invention of Contour Lines: the contenders. December 2017.

British Cartographic Society & Society of Cartographers, Conference: Maps for Changing Reality. Paper: The Great Lines. Redworth, Co. Durham. September 2017.

GeoConnect Conference. Paper: The Great Lines. ExCel, London. October 2017.


2017 – 18 Facilitator, Art for the Brain Fine Studios, Fine House Farm.
2016 Trustee for charity Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC).
2010 – 15 VARC, special schools project coordinator.
2005 – Freelance Artist at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.
2005 – 11 Creative Partnerships, Agent & Practitioner.
2002 – 04 Fine Art Department, Newcastle University, occasional projects for students: content via context (1/04), proportional representation (10/02), deep space (2-3/02).


2022 Helen Wallis Fellowship, British Library.
2021 Wiley Digital Archive Research Fellowship, online, Royal Geographic Society partnering with (WDA).
2021 Harley Fellowship in the History of Cartography, British Library and National Archives.
2018 - 19 Arts Council England, Award for Dignitree project.
2018 Creative Scotland, Award for the Lines of Attraction project.
2016 Arts Council England, Award for Great Lines Project.
2012 Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Sunderland University, an AHRC-funded project mentoring and coaching ‘emerging’ artists on ‘good practice’.
2011 Artists in Creative Education (AiCE) mentoring international artists, devising a handbook, talks, workshops & related research.
2007 Arts Council England, Award for creation of space for Open Studio events.
2007 Tynedale Business Expansion Grant, Award (also for the above).
2005 Arts Council England, Award for ‘Traverser’ at Tynemouth Metro Station.
2004 Arts Council England, Cultural Business Venture Award for new equipment and website.
2004 Tynedale Business Expansion Grant for website.
1991 Richard Mills Travel Fellowship to research and set up an exchange between young people in Hull & Budapest.
1990 Henrietta Bowder Travel Bursary for travel and research in Eastern Europe.

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