Curiosity kills the cat at AIR Gallery

Duncan Cameron at AIR Gallery

Weird and wonderful curiosities have sparked the imagination of people over the centuries. Intriguing displays of the strange and peculiar would become the talk of the town and people would gather in their droves to see such unusual things. Despite the world being a small place these days, there are still a million things we don’t know about it. From the natural to manmade, bizarre, obscure, to right in front of your eyes. There are so many things so utterly curious that we can’t help but stop and stare. Whether it be a strange cloud formation, a zigzag of marks in the ground or the way chocolate melts into the froth of my cappuccino.

The recent exhibition at AIR Gallery brings together both a weird and extraordinary array of prints, drawings, sculpture and artefacts. As artists we all have a curious nature within ourselves and as the gallery so accurately states its the need to analyse, enquire and experiment which forms the basis for any work of art.

Naturally, my attention swings towards the cabinet of curiosities 'Chronology' by Duncan Cameron with a brightly coloured bird flying high above the birdcage. Taxidermy has always been a subject of fascination for many artists. Its vials of animal papercuts, cases of bugs and insects displayed in neat rows alongside a haberdashery of suitcases on a trolley is similar to something you would expect to see in a Harry Potter film. A glass dome of comedy felt birds with skeleton heads continues the theme from artist Jane Fairhurst whose objects also hark back to Victorian parlour displays.

Mono photograms capture the delicacy of light and dark, the x-ray reptilian images from Lee Finch exude a strange air of decay and birth. Next them sits Luke Irving's 'lost beast' skull head stirring up the imagination of the past alongside lurking feelings of fear and the unknown.

Old waxed photographs from Guilia Cacciuttolo record a bygone era with their longing for another time and a remembrance of different customs, dress and etiquette.

Guilia Cacciulotto

Three small round magnifying glasses hang from the ceiling and expand the notion of the curious through their magical way of looking at the same things differently. Focusing my attention on the 'Seawed Portraits' by Henny Burnett through the looking glass serves to highlight their abstract
nature. The jewel-like photograms of rock pools and beach debris are presented in the style of a Victorian album of specimens. Likewise the typewriter musings of Penny Alexander are a curious adventure in themselves using a dated piece of technology to create a reflection of our visual language. Showing how we can re-use objects to devise new ends exploring the conception of life and birth.

Finally, the hand-blown glass sculptures from Helen Wheeler push the boundaries of a material embracing the various states of its formation, change and preservation. Their fragility seems to represent to me a likening to the arteries and valves of the heart mimicking an organic life-force. Like Jane Fairhurst, Martha Lyons-Haywood actually uses organic materials such as wood, hair and sheep bone which she manipulates and alters to create strange new ephemeral works.

The exhibition shows just how much of a crossover there is between life and death, the new and old, real and fantasy to be seen in the artworks by these 12 artists, who most of all seem to take their inspiration from the natural world. It also shows just how much we are all explorers ready to take on the world, assessing and re-evaluating the ordinary into the extraordinary everyday of our lives.

Martha Lyons-Haywood 

Jane Fairhurst (front)

Close-up of work from Guilia Cacciulotto

Penny Alexander

Close of work by Henny Burnett

Helen Wheeler

Martha Lyons-Haywood (left) and Ruby Tingle (right)

Mixed-media sculpture by Duncan Cameron

Mixed-media sculpture by Duncan Cameron

Lee Finch (wall) and Luke Irving (display cabinet)

Luke Irving

Jane Fairhurst

Martha Lyons-Haywood 

Helen Wheeler

Lee Finch

Helen Wheeler

Thaleia Kavvada

John Lockwood

AIR Gallery

30 Grosvenor Road, 
Altrincham, WA14 1LD

Please take note that your art may flourish from reading this blog :)


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