In the Trees
The second exhibition in the Transition Gallery ‘Supernature’ series opened on Friday night, Annabel Dover is exhibiting her sculptures of a large variety of British birds along with some small drawings.
I arrive expecting to be a little disappointed, Dover has a huge task in hand to match the amazing work produced by Laura White in the previous supernature show, it is always difficult to follow a show of such scale and depth with much more quiet, understated work.
I am underwhelmed rather than disappointed, to view Dover’s work requires a shutting down of stylistic preconceptions, many artworks rendered in this manner turn me off and this is my initial response. In the social environment of the private view I have an opportunity to disengage from the work for a while and I endeavour to return later in the evening and allow myself to absorb some vibe from the work.
A little while later the gallery has emptied as the visitors socialise on the balcony just outside. I re-enter the room and in the quiet of the space I stroll around the main sculptural piece, a sculpted mock tree is the seat for a prodigious number of birds. The bare tree contains more variety of feathered wildlife in much closer proximity than would be the case in the real world. The model birds appear crudely produced, does the rough finish and slightly unnatural pigments reflect the human need for understanding through observation?, is this intended to reflect our human desire to categorise and contain, to make nature an academically or scientifically accurate recording?. No matter how much we categorise and record our natural surroundings we will never fully understand the behaviour and motivations of the creatures around us. For many of us our understanding of the natural world comes from these scientific recordings, our understanding comes not from our own observations but from second hand knowledge and the representations that come from these observations will always be somewhat inaccurate. Are Dover’s crude and abnormal three dimensional representations a statement of mistrust of this system of scientific and academic classification?. In the unnatural setting of the gallery and with the unnatural representations of these creatures I am left confused.
Dover may have cleverly thrown me off the scent with her production methods but to tell the truth I am still unsure about this show, maybe the confusion and lack of resolution I feel with the show is deliberate. I am left with one positive thought however, I would love to see these representations placed in the true habitat with their living counterparts and maybe this is entirely what Dover wants me to think.