Open on & until 10th SEPT.
Immediately on entering the gallery one sees the poignantly powerful Jane Ivimey piece after which the exhibition is named. Seventy white bisque fired stoneware birds are laid on a large black surface. Their neatly folded feet, clawed or webbed, tidy their mute forms into a graded repetition and one foot holds the identity tag. Their wings are neatly folded; out of use. Some identification is restored, most movingly, by the different positions and sizes of the birds’ heads, necks and beaks, the white corpses. ‘Red-backed Shrike’, ‘Yellow Wagtail’, ‘Roseate Tern’. This is The Red List. All are endangered, all avian inhabitants of and migrants to Britain. Ivimey’s work is at once a poetic tribute to their beauty and a shocking reminder of our real and pending loss of them.
Patrick Haines has cast a large kestrel in resin with bronze patina in a powerfully realist interpretation. It perches menacingly, this strong presence, on a church chair over a small nest. Is it guarding or poised ready for attack? This is an arresting work, superbly placed beside Richard Long’s site-specific Great Ouse mud work. In an interesting juxtaposition of the natural and ephemeral with the fabricated product and the found object, Haines’s contrastingly intimate scaled work Redstart speaks again of that indefinable brink between guardianship and attack, non-existent in the natural world. A taxidermal bird with a bronze-gilded beak protects a nest or prey or trophy of filled test tubes, perhaps symbolising the world of science. The four test tubes on which the bird perches have intriguing contents including tiny bones, lures for airguns and gilded redstart skulls. I love this juxtaposition.
Suky Best’s film Observation of Flight references the scientific world again in that the recorded bird‘s flight is that of a bird captured in an enclosed space for scientific research. Forming part of the artist’s own research into early cinematography, the film mesmerises through its vehicle of acute observation in a restricted colour sequence. In a whited–out silhouette against a perfect sky blue, a generic Kestrel, circles, soars and dives in what is almost a butterfly dance. Interestingly I heard an ornithologist visiting the gallery identify the season according to the kestrel’s flight patterns.
In a visual statement that has an aesthetic symbolism as woven all through this excellent exhibition, Martin Brandsma comments on the hoarding habits of the Great Grey Shrike in a work that is both minimalist and poetic. In three grey-painted cabinets he places three grey-painted twigs, to each of which a dried-out dark brown frog clings, in halted animations of death’s dance. Brandsma’s other work shown here, also addressing the Great Grey Shrike and indicative of the artist’s long research into this bird, having observed its solitary existence in Northern Holland for a nine month period. His photograph Blue Tit examines the contents of the Shrike’s stomach after eating this small garden-favourite bird. The hugely magnified contents immediately brought a nest to my mind as the matter has evolved into a mass of coagulated small parts, many of which are identifiable. It’s a little difficult to feel sentimental about the blue tit after seeing this disturbing but beautiful image!
After closely observing mute swans over a period of time, Nessie Stonebridge has created a vibrant series of small oil paintings, They start to bellow and You fly straight into my heart, here on used tiles. These works investigate the movement of this magnificent species when in ‘flight or fight’ mode, conjuring the birds’ anger in abstract swirls and currents of emotively charged colour, involving her intense focus on their beaks and wings. Stonebridge uses oil paint with skill and passion, working outside to dramatic effect.
This artist’s fantastic large-scale drawing of swans When they bellow hang them high consists of charcoal images on two large scale panels of Fabriano paper. Here Stonebridge renders the swans more naturalistically; they are elegant and magnificent caught in the drama of descending flight. The images echo each other, two swans in triumphant symmetry. And the two-part drawing literally concertinas into patterns and structures which simulate wings, bringing the drawing into three dimensions.
This exhibition successfully combines the aesthetic and the symbolic with the Gallery’s strong underpinning theme of ecology and the environment. See it before it closes and if you wish, help GroundWork raise its status by voting for the Gallery in the small businesses section at:
It has already been shortlisted as one of ten contenders in this category.
17 Purfleet Street
Alison Dunhill 31/08/2017