Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Exhibiting alongside leeches and other curiosities in The Room of Wonder

Colin by Kirsty E Smith nicely juxtaposed against Stephen Livingstone's Dust and Shadows 

There is often suggested movement in my Frillip Moolog beings. And even if the possibility of movement is not obvious to others I personally do think about how they might move if they were animated. When I was making Colin I had thoughts of a worm poking its head out of a hole and swiveling around casting an eye over his surroundings. In fact Colin’s working title was Wormy
My work does have strong anthropomorphic qualities and it seems obvious that the metal plate on Colin is some sort of face and the central feathers a sort of snout or proboscis.
These thoughts must come from my lifelong love of performance and street theatre in particular. Way back in 1998 I had the pleasure of encountering The Leech. The performance was menacing, exhilarating and magnetic and often when I look at Colin I am reminded of The Leech.

The Leech street theatre performance
Colin is one of three pieces which I have currently on show at The Borough Museum and Art Gallery. The show is called Cabinet of Curiosities and Room of Wonder and is an exhibition of two halves; The Cabinet of Curiosities has been curated by Clare Griffiths who has taken a gorgeously eclectic range of objects from the museum’s stores and put them on show for the first time in years. 
So much to look at in this cabinet of curiosities. The fox with the bandaged foot peeps out from the cupboard below the drawing desk
So many of these things would struggle to be selected for any other exhibition so this might be their only chance to get out of the stores for several years. The fox with the bandaged foot, or the selection of dismembered birds wings and the skeletal human foot for example. 

I happen to know that there is a jar of leeches on show in the recreated Victorian chemist shop which is elsewhere in the museum and for me this is simply even more confirmation of Colin’s appropriateness for this exhibition.

The Room of Wonder half of the show is curated by Bev Jennings and is made up of works by sixteen contemporary artists. There is a great range of pieces; some which really do leave you feeling uneasy to others which seduce you with their beauty so much that you almost overlook their sinister qualities. 

Consequences by Ann Goddard definitely leaves me with a feeling of unease (but the kind of unease that I like)
The colours and glazes of Anna Collette Hunt's pieces seduce you
Objects suggest stories and the museum is interested in the finding out the provenance of many of these strange items. They are appealing to visitors who might know any of the objects’ histories to come forward and tell their story. 

It might be that someone's great grandfather was an explorer who brought back some of these coins from an Egyptian archeological dig (or of course they might have bought them at auction and their children may have used them to play Tiddlywinks over the years!) 

Many stories within Clare Shrouder's narrative pieces

I am fascinated by the skeletal foot and the carafes of water which are labelled as fire extinguishers. Is that just plain water inside them or does it have  a special ingredient? Museum collections are fascinating for those of us with curious minds and of course museum collections have, and continue to, inspire so many artists.

Paul Biddle’s photographic works are mesmerizing and have the ability to seduce you with their beauty. I particularly fell in love with his Traveling Cabinet of the Count of Muldivo. My photo doesn’t do it justice so see it in detail on Paul’s website

While viewing the show my eyes were continually making connections between the contemporary works and various of the curiosities from the museum archives. 
It is good to be exhibiting Penny again and rewarding for me to see her in such close proximity to an elegant stuffed Herron on an equally elegant dark wood plant stand. My earlier Frillip Moolog beings were heavily influenced by furniture and I have always loved plant-stands in particular. 

Penny by Kirsty E Smith
Flight by Kirsty E Smith
Flight is a piece which I made back in 2001 and is definitely before I started to make what I call 'beings'. Flight is a piece which delights in the handmade; I assembled the Airfix planes, painted them with various moth and butterfly markings and then went on to also make the display box itself. Possibly surprisingly I have to confess that the delight for me is in opening the glass case and inhaling the smell of French (button) Polish.

Isn’t this what taking these artifacts out of store is all about? It must have been an exciting process opening up cabinets, drawers and boxes and unwrapping these mysterious objects. It makes me feel like a child at Christmas just thinking about it.

Our fascination with the ability to fly, birds, feathers and flying insects is shared by may of the artists in the show. Stephen Livingstone’s, Songbird Sonnet  and Anne Guest’s beautiful photographs from her One Hundred Percent Proof series are just two examples. 

Re Sequence by Anne Guest (Blue Tit with Pheasant wings)
Penny, Flight and Colin my contributions to The Room of Wonder at Borough Museum and Art Gallery 
This is an inspired and interesting exhibition which is well worth a visit.

Exhibiting Artists:
Claire Baker, Paul Biddle, Henny Burnett, Ann Goddard, Naomi Greaves, Anne Guest, Philip Hardacker, Anna Collette Hunt, Stephen Livingstone, Fiona and Neil Osborne (One Red Shoe), Colleen Parker, Chantal Powell, Clare Shrouder, Kirsty E Smith and Sean Williams.

Cabinets of Curiosities and Room of Wonder continues until 12th March 2013
Brampton Park, 

Opening times: Mon-Sat 10am-4.30pm, Sun 2pm-4.30pm
Free admission