Julia Langley, Ruth Marten, Jack Milroy
30 November 2017 – 6 January 2018
The Wunderkammern or wonder-rooms of the mid 16th century were repositories for wide-ranging collections of objects whose categories were yet to be defined. The artefacts they contained represented the known (and imagined) world, encompassing natural history, ethnography, religion and art. Taking up these themes the Eagle Gallery’s space is transformed into a cabinet of curiosities with contemporary works that range from paintings and sculpture, to memento mori and entomology boxes.
Tracey Bush and Jack Milroy transform paper and books into works that celebrate the traditions of the amateur naturalist. Bush utilises envelopes bearing UK museum postmarks to cut specimens of indigenous British butterflies, while Milroy’s The Librarian’s Garden VII re-fashions an illustrated guide to birds into a tiny 3D aviary. Using source material found in vintage prints and book plates Ruth Marten references the imaginative delights of Medieval bestiaries in subtly altered images of fabulous creatures.
Nature is poised and stilled in the meticulously worked surfaces of Julia Langley’s paintings. Her plants and blooms are shown against flat backgrounds – giving the images the austere formal charge of Renaissance panels. Women and birds is the leitmotif in a series of paintings by James Fisher that share a similar quality of focus. Painted over the decorative grounds of pattern papers Fisher’s birds are framed as vibrant, exotic specimens.
Denise de Cordova’s collection of carved and painted figures hint at ambiguous narratives. Her heroines of the deep wood (one decorated with peach stones, others carrying sticks to ward off bears) allude to the forests in fokelore – sites of getting lost and surviving.
Chloe Hill’s carved nuts and small vitrines follow in the traditions of the Weinachtsmarkt and Day of the Dead festivals. Miniature memento mori combine found remnants of nature and carved skulls in fascinating and faintly gothic vignettes.
Gallery closed for Christmas 23 December – 2 January 2018