Rarely seen, yet glittering to behold, this is a display of gold, silver and metal thread embroidery to dazzle and delight, embracing nature in all its forms. All the pieces are made by members of the Goldwork Guild, at least one of whom will be demonstrating this ancient craft daily within the exhibition. The Goldwork Guild was formed in 2004 by Janice Williams to keep the art alive in the 21st century.
Modern goldwork will be displayed together with a few antique pieces reflecting the fact that this work dates back over 2000 years when only royals, nobility and those of great wealth could afford such magnificence in garments, robes, domestic furnishings and religious embellishments. Whilst the history of metal thread embroidery goes back so far in history that its origins are lost, it’s widely believed that goldwork embroidery originated in China. From there the art form spread to Asia, Persia, India, Japan, the Middle East, and the ancient civilisations of Assyria and Babylonia. Over time and up to the present day it further spread to North Africa, Spain, Italy, Western Europe, Great Britain, Scandinavia, North America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Goldwork is also mentioned in the Bible within the book of Exodus, where it states ‘He made the ephod of gold, blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen. They did beat the gold into thin plates, and cut it into wires, to work it in the blue, and in the purple and scarlet, and in the fine linen with cunning work.’ The very earliest examples employed pure gold and silver. The metals were flattened and wound around strands of animal and human hair. However, the gold and silver were both very brittle. Later the metals were wound around silk, paper, animal gut and parchment, and originally this process was done by hand which required great patience and skill, and the cost of such threads was extremely high.
Present day goldwork and metal thread embroidery is more affordable now as there are now substitutes, even though real gold and silver is of course still used (and comes from Japan.)
Throughout history, goldwork has been worked into fabric decoration and can be used not only in other embroidery, but applique with variegated shimmering patterns made luxurious using gold, silver, metallic threads and precious stones.
Ceremonial, military and religious attire is still adorned with the richness of gold embroidery. However, the design for military pieces is necessarily constrained by tradition as one would expect, but the goldwork that embellishes domestic, religious and ceremonial attire is still being worked today by many embroiderers. Other techniques and materials can be worked to create contemporary pieces reflecting the 21st century.
This particular art form is prized for the way the light plays upon it, which is influenced not just by the richness of the metal thread used, but also by the variety of metal threads available and the techniques used.
WyeSevern Textile Artists from Mid Wales are inspired by the natural world. Each member has their own dynamic way of interpreting the subject. A diverse range of styles and mixed media techniques are used resulting in a varied and inspiring display.
Drawing underpins all of Mari Harpham’s artwork; a way to discover, reflect and interpret. Each image comprises numerous spontaneous sketches exploring movement and behaviour linked to the environment. The intimate journey of each drawing from nature is then developed into a linocut for printing, into stitch, or on to paper.
After many years of making block quilts, where wrinkles and folds were regarded as imperfections, Angela Morris now introduces texture and structure into her work. She is increasingly influenced by natural phenomena such as the Aurora Borealis, and high level photo imagery where colour and pattern are inspirational.
Bronwen Jenkins turned to textiles after a career teaching biology. Her lifelong interest in natural history strongly influences her current work. This is mainly machine embroidery with an emphasis on landscape and wild plants, including lichens and mosses
Pat Gibson is primarily a lacemaker specialising in needlelace. Historical lace pieces are influental, much of their design coming from nature. Experimentation by Pat has led to incorporating the technique into mixed media work.
With a background in graphic design and watercolour painting Pamela Higgs works with hand dyed fabric, creating a layered effect with painted or stencilled papers. Free machine embroidery and hand embezzling with beads and found objects unifies the pieces.
Inspired by landscapes and the countryside around her home, Ann Breese creates her designs using hand and machine embroidery on a variety of backgrounds. Her recent work has been inspired by wild flowers growing in fields and on country lanes in spring and early summer.
This Atrium exhibition is one of a series highlighting the work of local and regional arts, crafts and photography groups. Don’t miss it!
Meet a member of the group on Sept 3rd, 7th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 20th, 21st and 22nd.
Art Inspired by the landscape, flora and fauna in and around a working quarry by Esther Tyson
Esther Tyson SWLA is at the forefront of contemporary wildlife art and a council member of the Society of Wildlife Artists She studied at the University of Wales before being accepted into the Royal College of Art, London where she won a travel scholarship to study large carnivores in Slovakia. That trip ignited a passion for travel, drawing, painting and observing creatures in their natural environment.
After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2003, living and working in the wilds of South Wales, Esther secured a 3 month placement on Aride Island in the Seychelles, working alongside biologists in the field, observing the behaviour of many bird species including the Seychelles Magpie Robin, a thrush size bird threatened with extinction and in 2005 cited on the red data list. This was an important time of learning and understanding.
Surrounded by the Indian Ocean and contemplating a fear of deep water, Esther decided to apply for a scuba diving bursary through the SWLA and Dorset Wildlife Trust. Incredibly, Esther won the award and a few weeks later became an open water scuba diver. A different world entirely, drawing underwater, the COLD waters off the Dorset coast and later, the warmer waters off Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia.
Esther has been involved in projects within the UK and Worldwide, working alongside organisations such as Birdlife International (Nepal, Vultures), BTO (Senegal/Norfolk, Migration), DKM (Turkey), Esther Benjamin Trust (Nepal), Free the Bears (Phnom Penh), FFI (Cambodia), Salford Council (Salford), Royal Parks (London), SWLA, and the Natural History Museum (the Big Draw).
Esther currently lives and works in the South Peak District where she combines a studio and observational outdoor practice. ‘As the Crow Flies’ is a selection of work, created especially for this exhibition, that focuses on an area close to her home – a working quarry. Finding inspiration, life and beauty in a what many might consider an unlikely location, Esther gives us an insight into this project …
‘My high place, a place of solitude, of thought, of peace and of beauty? Really? Are quarries not a blight on the landscape…
Life brims in the boundary lines and spills over into farmland and limestone cliffs alike. So far, Jackdaws finding cracks and holes, Ravens a step in an old crevice and the falcons on a ledge high above the busy workings of this quarry. Wild flowers take over the slopes, wagtails and redstarts return and I’m still hoping to see wheatear…
My interest in the Raven has continued since tracking wolves in Slovakia back in 2003 and having found the quarries’ resident pair, I have spent time observing their behaviour in and around the nest site. It feels decadent drawing these birds and a huge privilege painting the adults as they prepare to sit… Pied wagtails arrive and forage close to where I sit, wood pigeons feed in the trees that edge the quarry face, a blast and the pigeon in turn feeds a Peregrine…
I’ve watched this pair of falcons for 8 years and now I have the luxury of including them in my work. With the ravens sitting, time is freed to find the possible nest site of the Peregrine. I had an inkling early on and at quite a distance have watched the female prepare the nest site, the pair chase another male from their territory, a buzzard forced to ground and our resident falcons mate. The female begins her sit which in turn, is perfect timing to pick up on the ravens once again. 40 days back and fore feeding young, 5 youngsters fledged and the subsequent days exploring are charming!
Now I return to wild flowers and peregrine falcons …’
This exhibition features a broad range of works both large and small, nearly all produced in the field. Many will be for sale. Do come and meet Esther September 10th – 15th when she will be artist in residence.
Since January we have been delighted to have had Bella Lucchesi join us for a day a week as Nature in Art’s Curatorial Trainee. Bella is from the USA and is undertaking an MA in Curating at UWE, Bristol. As part of her course she has been working closely with Collections Officer Emily Cooper to assemble this display. It is based on the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio; how it appears in nature, and in works of art (whether that be by chance or design) and exploring its suggested relationship to beauty. It follows on well from David Trapnell’s talk earlier in the year ‘Is Beauty in the eye of the beholder?’. Here Bella introduces the selection of works …
The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers, starting from 0 where every number is the sum of the two numbers preceding it. The Golden Ratio is a number that’s equal to approximately 1.618. This number, often known as “phi” from the Greek alphabet, is in fact not equal to precisely 1.618 because it is an irrational number – meaning that its decimal digits carry on forever without repeating a pattern.
Although these are separate terms, coincidentally they closely relate to each other in many ways. If one takes any two successive Fibonacci numbers, their ratio is very close to the Golden ratio. As the numbers get higher, the ratio becomes even closer to 1.618. For example, the ratio of 3 to 5 is 1.666. But the ratio of 13 to 21 is 1.625. Getting even higher, the ratio of 144 to 233 is 1.618. These numbers are all successive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. These numbers can also be applied to the proportions of a rectangle, called the Golden rectangle. This is thought as one of the most visually satisfying geometric forms and has been applied in numerous creative disciplines for centuries.
These concepts appear frequently in art compositions as well as in nature, whether that is in the florets of a sunflower, pine cone seeds or sea shells. This exhibition will investigate these terms in relation to nature and art and hopefully act as a starting point for visitors own explorations into art and nature. Most of the paintings, prints and 3D items have been selected from our collection but there are also a number of items on loan from artists and Gallery Pangolin, to whom we express our thanks.
Even if the Fibonacci numbers and Golden Ratio seem daunting to you, there’s much to inspire and set the mind thinking in this selection. Come and see!
This is a special exhibition of ceramic sculpture by internationally renowned sculptor Linda Heaton-Harris. This is an opportunity to see a wide selection of her work, much of it fresh from the kiln. Plus visitors can see her in the studio November 12th – 17th.
The title of the exhibition, chosen by Linda, is taken from one of her favourite quotes. It is thought to have originally been found on an old gravestone many years ago. The wildlife author and artist D.J. Watkins-Pitchford (known as BB) used it as a quote on the frontice piece of many of his books. It reads …
The wonder of the world, the beauty and
The power, the shapes of things, their colours,
Lights, and shades; these I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts
Linda recently moved to Cornwall to a smallholding/farm on the edge of Bodmin Moor overlooking Rough Tor. It is ‘a fantastic area full of ancient history including, stone huts and standing stone circles and of course wonderful wildlife’. The location is also near the North Cornish coast, Port Isaac, Rock and Padstow, yet again offering wonderful scenery, walks and wildlife. Her purpose built studio has magnificent views of the craggy granite rocks of Rough Tor and the Moor with it’s fascinating ever changing scenery. It is here that she created the works in this unique selection.
Linda originally trained as a teacher studying English Literature and History, becoming interested in ceramics while still at college. At first her work centred on abstract flower and plant forms, often vibrantly coloured, but she soon started to follow her real passion, and began sculpting animals and birds.
Linda’s work falls into two main categories: hand built, individual pieces demonstrating a more simplified approach, and extremely detailed individual bird and animal sculptures, both life size and miniatures. With both styles she endeavours to capture the essence of the animal or bird.
A variety of techniques and clays are used to produce a range of textures with various oxides, slips and stains applied to retain the fine detail. The pieces are fired at least twice. The detailed intricate bird studies involve many hours work, being built up ‘feather by feather’. Thus a single sculpture can involve several hundred feathers alone and can take several weeks to complete. Some of the pieces have flowers or foliage, these are also built up one petal, leaf or stamen at a time. Amongst the items created especially for this exhibition are a miniature piece of a pod of hippos and a Juvenile Cuckoo being fed. Others are in the kiln as we write, always a nerve-wracking time as accidents can occur. Linda’s pieces need several firings which adds to the trepidation!
Fresh from its launch in London, see the very latest exhibition of images from the British Wildlife Photography Awards celebrating the beauty and diversity of British nature and the talent, artistry and determination of the photographers who took them.
No images available yet from the 2019 exhibition. This image by Csaba Tokoly is from the 2018 competition.
Pytel is an internationally renowned metal sculptor of birds and animalier. His works include the Jubilee Fountain beneath Big Ben and ‘Take Off’, a monumental piece at Birmingham Airport depicting egrets. Born in Poland, he has an instantly recognisable style. This display includes metal and bronze sculptures and prints.
Now in its fifty-fifth instalment, see the winning images from the very latest annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition which provides a showcase for the world’s very best nature photography selected from 48000 entries from 100 countries. The competition is owned and operated by the Natural History Museum.
See images from the show here
Founded in 1993, Gloucestershire Society for Botanical Illustration specialises in botanical illustration as distinct from flower painting. It includes a number of RHS medal winners in its ranks. This show includes works in pencil, ink and watercolour. See members at work everyday. On show in the Atrium of our Education Centre.