Surrounded by cliffs of seabirds soon to be filled with eggs during the forthcoming breeding season, it is appropriate that Andy and Peter Holden's fascinating and unmissable exhibition Natural Selection, should have taken up residence in Lerwick's Old Anderson High School, with its views to the sea beyond. You couldn't have a better location for an exhibition that is centred around the “innate and inherited” characteristics of birds, and, indeed, of the humans who are fascinated by them.

This multi-layered Artangel exhibition, which opened in the former Newington Library in London last year and will tour to Hospitalfield in Arbroath, Bristol and Inverness, is based around the work of artist Andy Holden, of the Grubby Mitts, and his father, the ornithologist Peter Holden, who was instrumental in enthusing young birdwatchers at the RSPB and once Blue Peter's resident bird expert. In one sense, it is a story of birds and their eggs, of evolution and necessity, and of the obsessive collectors who stop at nothing to illegally take those eggs out of the birds nests. In another, it is a cross-species story of father and son, of knowledge passed down, in the bird world, as in our own, and the meeting point between ornithology and art.

There are museum-like displays here, of birds and their eggs and the ephemera of collecting, of criminal doings and doubly impacted failures. Such is the tale of Colin Watson, believed to be the egg collector who tried to chop down the tree in Loch Garten containing the nest of the endangered osprey in the 1980s, who died falling out of another nested tree some years later.

The exhibition is dominated by a giant wicker sculpture of a bower bird's bower, made by Holden and his assistant, along with six students from the University of the Highlands and Islands. The natural version it emulates is small but staggering, surrounded by colourful shells, sticks, bits of plastic even, collected by the birds to impress potential mates, and a very rare example in the natural world of a structure built by a species other than man purely for display. “That's why it's the centrepiece here, around which the rest of the show circulates,” says Matthews.

Andy Holden, she tells me, was really taken with the space, the former hall, stage and canteen of this 1960s extension of the school - currently scheduled for demolition - all of which are interlinked by glass panels. “He loved the location in the building, the interconnectedness between the spaces, and also the fact that it is on a promontory overlooking the sea, surrounded by seabird colonies, a pristine environment.” Matthews has really noticed the engagement with school pupils, she says, because many children in Shetland spend so much time outdoors that they make strong connections with the exhibits in the show.

In one of the open spaces, birds eggs of all descriptions, with their fascinating inked spots and squiggles, are laid out in old biscuit tins on the floor, fragile, vulnerable. They are, however, made of porcelain, intricately marked by Andy Holden, inspired by the haul found by Wildlife police when they raided the home of egg collector Matthew Gonshaw. “He had eggs stored in tins in the back of the wardrobe, in the attic, under the bed,” says Matthews. He is the subject, too, of one of Holden's films.

It's oddly ironic that the day before we speak, a rare Tengmalms owl, not seen for over 100 years on Shetland, should have landed in a back garden in Tumblin, causing a flurry of obsessive bird “listers”, as Matthews tells me they are called, to charter a plane to Lerwick to visit the back garden, tick the owl off their lists and then fly out again, “without interacting with the natural environment in which the bird was found.” “That's what fascinated me,” says Matthews. “It's not that far away from being an egg collector. Andy's film explores the pathology of the egg collector. This guy, Gonshaw, is lonely and he wants a female, he says, but he's locked into this interest in nature, fascinated by the beauty of the natural environment. He loves the eggs, and yet they're stashed in the back of the wardrobe,” she says. And in taking the eggs he was, of course, “killing the thing he loved.”

Matthews tells me that there was once a historic egg collection, a very fine one, held in the main, listed, Anderson School building, where she had originally hoped to mount the exhibition and where she hopes, in a few years, artists studios will be installed, to continue the building's creative history. It had been donated many years ago, collected many before that, and was recently removed to the museum. Rather appropriate, she says, the link with the porcelain eggs laid out on the floor here, and the cliffs further away, and the birds and the eggs that are still to come.

Natural Selection: Andy Holden and Peter Holden, Old Anderson High School, Lover's Loan, Lerwick, Shetland, 01595 745500 , Until 10 March, Wed – Sun 11am – 5pm

Don't Miss

The Modern Institute is running three exhibitions over its two sites; Victoria Morton at Osborne Street shows "Treat Fever with Fever", exploring her long-running interest in nature, biology, desire and loss.  At Aird's Lane, Jack McConville shows works of experimental figuration whilst in the Aird's Lane Bricks Space, American artist Andrew J. Greene has his first solo exhibition in Europe, "Unconditional Surrender". Installed as if in a "commercial display system", Greene's photographs, taken with his mobile phone, show fan photos of celebrities in a number of Los Angeles restaurants. 

The Modern Institute, 14-20 Osborne Street, Glasgow, 0141 248 3711, , Until 9 March, Mon - Fri, 10am - 6pm; Sat, 12noon - 5pm 

Critic's Choice

The late Karolina Larusdottir's upbringing in Reyjavik sounds the stuff of a novel. The granddaughter of a strongman in a travelling circus, she spent many childhood holidays in the Hotel Borg, which her grandfather set up as Reyjavik's first “grand hotel” in the 1930s. The Hotel and its life inspired her work, including the etchings and paintings that fill the exhibition at the Castle Gallery next month.

This exhibition, designed in celebration of Larusdottir's 75th birthday by the gallery that long supported her work, will open next week under something of a shroud. For whilst it celebrates her own unique style, Larusdottir died earlier this month, just a few weeks before the show was due to open. Her family, in England and Iceland, agreed that the exhibition should go ahead in celebration of her life and work.

Gallery Director, Denise Collins, a long-time friend of Larusdottir, who had recently retired, attests to the artist's legacy. “She created strikingly individual works of art which will stand the test of time,” she told me. “She came from a generation of artists who grafted and crafted, realising that to become a great artist one must develop the technical skills necessary to express one's unique vision. She represented a beacon of determination amidst an increasingly complex art world.”

Born in Reyjavik in 1944, Larusdottir studied at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford (1967), moving back to Iceland in recent years. Much of her work is surreal in nature, dealing with her favourite topic, people. The exhibition itself takes its title from one of the artist's etchings, “The Good Gathering,”, and includes rare prints and early works alongside more recent limited edition prints. The show itself will also be accompanied by the publication of a 60 page monograph on the artist.

The Good Gathering: Karolina Larusdottir, Castle Gallery, 43 Castle Street, Inverness, 01463 729512 1-30 March, Mon – Sat, 9am – 5pm