When Darl-e And The Bear opened in Woodstock a year ago no one could predict the gallery would soon be shut due to lockdown.
Using that time to “catch up”, gallery owner Julie Wigg has now completed her two-pronged space – a full gallery at the front leading through to a beautifully serene courtyard garden and out to the exhibition gallery at the back, taking you right through from Market Street to Oxford Street.
Having just reopened Julie is now delighted to announce her new exhibition Symbiosis: Art and Nature and has garnered an impressive list of artists to take part, which opens on Aug 21.
Works by Erum Aamir, Edwin Aitken, Laura Ellen Bacon, Jan Bowman,
Ella Clocksin, Alex deVol, Charlotte Johnston, Mandy Payne, Richard Perry and Joseph Bull and the Oxford University Kilns Project will all be gracing the Woodstock gallery from August until October.
“We wanted to put on an exhibition that made people think,” Julie says. “But it’s also important to reiterate that you don’t always have to understand art to like it.”
A staunch supporter of environmental and animal charities, it seemed an obvious theme for Julie, who was automatically drawn to the combination.
“We try to be ethically aware, and conservation is hugely important to us. But there was something about lockdown that really brought people back to nature. The birds singing, wild animals being free to roam and artists being so prolific. Some struggled to get to their studios but they could all go outside and somehow transcribe what they’d seen into so many different mediums. So this is also about how Coronavirus affected them, their work and their practice,” she says.
“Artists have always used nature as a vehicle to produce work, but now more than ever, which has helped us attract such a high calibre of artists.
“Some have made work especially, for some it’s their lockdown inspiration while others had work that suited the theme, making for a complex and original range of work,” Julie says.
Take Richard Perry for example, a famous UK-based artist working across the mediums of sculpture, drawing, and painting, with a distinguished track record of public work right across the British Isles and beyond.
He cuts interlocking forms, planes, surfaces and voids into inflexible materials such as marble, limestone and concrete and has a strong interest in the environment, regularly spending time taking photographs of local landscapes, including the veteran oaks of Sherwood Forest.
Famous for making huge pieces for public spaces, he is contributing some small Irish blue limestone marble pieces to Darl-e and the Bear’s exhibition.
A more emerging artist is Joseph Bull, a young artist potter who has established his first studio in Oxfordshire. Joseph produces wood fired porcelain and stoneware vessels in Oxford University’s anagram kiln in Wytham Woods. He uses mineral composition of tree ash and iron oxide to create his glazes, aided by director of the project Dr Robin Wilson of Keble College.
“It is a reminder that simple, sustainable processes and lightly refined, local materials can offer a valid and powerful alternative source of inspiration to the artist,” Robin Wilson explains.
Alexander deVol on the other hand is a designer, artist and maker who’s work investigates the material properties of wood and how it can be encompassed into other materials. deVol uses a mix of traditional casting methods and new technologies in ‘green wood’.
“My intention is to create artefacts and installations which allow audiences to observe and consider material in new ways,” he says.
The British sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon transforms raw, predominately natural materials into large scale artworks in both interior and landscape settings. Her last installation was a huge commission for Chatsworth.
In 2018 her work inspired the composer Helen Grime, whose resulting three-part movement, ‘Woven Space’ was performed at the Barbican by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
Bacon finds interest and inspiration in nature and natural phenomena, like the swirling patterns or murmurations formed by some flocking birds. The visual poetry, scale, and juxtaposition of each piece to its setting can be seen from a distance, but it takes a closer approach to appreciate the seemingly chaotic web of expertly intermingled natural materials.
“It is my goal that my work might bring some intrigue into both natural and built environments, creating work that might serve to remind us that nature can still surprise us,” she says.
Erum Aamir is an artist and physicist whose porcelain sculptures reflect her scientific bent.
“In my work, there’s always a repetition of single or more than one element which mimics the process of growth by repetition,” she says.
Mandy Payne is interested in Brutalist architecture, modernism, notions of utopia/ dystopia and finding beauty in the ordinary/ overlooked.
“I am inspired by the spaces people inhabit, the traces they leave and the capacity of places to absorb memories and experiences. I am particularly drawn to locations that are in a transitional state, that are overlooked or derided,” she says.
Jan Bowman is a textile designer and commercial design consultant. During the past 15 years Jan has focused on the design, development and production of woven spatial divides, panels and sculptural pieces for interior and exterior use.
Her work interprets colour, form and texture inherent in the natural world, alongside exploring the often intangible rhythms in nature
Edwin Aitken is a London based painter, his recent work based upon anatomy and the natural world where plant and animal motifs coalesce and combine. Although the initial stages are completed on location in Epping Forest, working directly from and in the woodland, the resulting images are not a literal depiction
As an emerging artist Charlotte Johnston‘s paintings are heavily influenced by the drawings she makes of the changing forms and structures in nature, drawing and painting ‘en-pleine nature’ in parkland and gardens.
The transition between remote Scottish Highlands and the foreign and dynamic environment of London has been a catalyst for her.
Ella Clocksin works with visual language and marks and patterns in the landscape from human activity through abstract colour. Since 2018, the surrounding soundscape, especially birdsong, has increased her use of script and code-like notations and calligraphic marks.
The paintings result from the interplay between external prompts and improvised mark-making in watercolour and mixed media, adding and erasing, until lines and planes settle into a resolved abstract form.
So Julie must be pleased with such an eclectic gathering? “I am delighted. It’s taken a lot of work and a lot of thinking about to get the exhibition just right, but I’m pleased with the results and so are the artists.”
You can now buy tea and coffee at the gallery and enjoy it in the courtyard.
Symbiosis: Art and Nature runs from Friday 21st August to Sunday 4th October
Private View August 21st 6 -9pm
For more information go to: https://www.darleandthebear.co.uk