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Light as a feather show at Stade Hall. This view includes works by Helen Bryant, Ted Barrow, Anne Rouse, Rebecca Snotflower, Erica Smith, Ian Barraclough and Kate Bruce.

Crowds flock to the Light as a Feather art show

Winchester Goose, Susal Lelliott

Winchester Goose, Susal Lelliott

Earlier this year poet and visual artist Susan Lelliott hatched a plan to hold an exhibition about birds. Her drawings often feature birds – unlikely portraits of crows, geese and seagulls. She was aware of other artists in the area who  also feature the avian in their artworks, and decided to co-ordinate a show which celebrated birds – as personal, political and environmental symbols. HOT’s Erica Smith was drawn into the net.

Rooster

Rooster, Rebecca Snotflower

When Susan first spoke to me about the show, I started thinking about other artists who used birds in their work. Anne Rouse is a poet who has written a beautiful concrete poem about a murmuration of starlings. Then I remembered printmaker Emily Johns’ giant albatros print.

Similarly, Susan asked artist Rebecca Snotflower to be involved, and she suggested two more artists – Helen Bryant who paints colourful portraits of women and birds, and illustrator Kate Bruce who makes larger than life papier-mâche bird puppets. Susan already knew the work of Cheryl Bell who is passionate about representing birds in her work, and the visually inventive Ian Barraclough – both members of South Coast Printmakers. Photographer Lauris Morgan-Griffiths and sound artist Ted Barrow were also invited to join the flock of artists.

Where the birds don't sing, Ian Barraclough

Ian Barraclough’s beautiful but eerie ‘Where the birds don’t sing’

Bastion of the spoken word scene, David Francis, was asked to read some of his bird-related poetry at the private view and I worked with him to produce a chap-book of his bird poems.

Fly Away Sweet Tangerine by Helen Bryant

Fly Away Sweet Tangerine by Helen Bryant

Initially, I planned to only make printed items for the show but when we went to visit Stade Hall, I looked at the vast expanse of empty floor between the walls, and worried that there weren’t any sculptural elements to fill it. Back in the spring, Susan, Tracey Johnson and I had visited the Natural Selection exhibition at Towner Gallery in Eastbourne. We were all excited by the idea of creating a hide. A hide is a great space to be secret and yet engage with the visual world.

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Ravenmaster by Cheryl Bell

Ravenmaster by Cheryl Bell

We had a planning meeting opposite eat@The Stade cafe whilst their staff unpacked chairs from giant cardboard boxes. Cheryl pointed out that the materials for a hide were staring us in the face, and I promised to make one. I did a little sketch to help plan. I needed more cardboard and then it arrived thanks to an IKEA delivery to my neighbour. Tracey Johnson came round to help work out the hide structure. We agreed that it might work on paper, but we weren’t sure if the cardboard would hold up. I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted to do it.

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Old Souls by Lauris Morgan-Griffiths

And that’s the magic of creativity. You have a vision, and against the odds you just plough on and achieve it. In the lead-up to the show, Ted Barrow had been in hospital, and planning his sound installations was a life-line for him (his Oil installation should be visible in the film clip above – or click here). For me, the challenge of how to make Anne Rouse’s poem fly in a gallery, and how the hell to build that hide whirred around in the back of my mind. I spent my weekends cutting and painting huge sheets of cardboard in the back garden and thinking about glue. At the same time, Kate Bruce was busy researching Casowaries and working out the best way to build a 2.5-metre big bird.

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Kate Bruce’s sketches for the giant Cassowary – shown in the top picture

Oil by Ted Barrow in Stade Hall

Oil by Ted Barrow in Stade Hall

Often in group exhibitions, there is an unplanned synergy between work by different artists. Here, printmaker Emily Johns’ giant print Conscious Oil dominates one side of the gallery, paired with Ted Barrow’s Oil – one of four sculptural sound pieces that he created for the show. As you walk around the gallery you can hear the sound pieces wash over you – they are a thoughtful, witty and beautiful addition to the show.

Conscious Oil by Emily Johns

Conscious Oil by Emily Johns

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Susan Lelliott reading her ‘Gaga Bird’ poem at the crowded opening event

This exhibition is full of stunning visuals – from Cheryl Bell’s monochrome charcoal drawings to psychedelic colour from Helen Bryant and Rebecca Snotflower. But what I liked about it most of all was the combination of imagery, sound, poetry and printed word. At the opening event on Tuesday night there were readings by Susan Lelliott and David Francis, and Joanna Poulton performed Anne Rouse’s Starlings poem. Prints and books by the artists are on sale, so even if you can’t afford an original painting, there are items to suit all pockets and tastes.

Please come to the show – and let us know what you think by sitting in the hide, hatching out your thoughts and writing them on the wall. We would love to read your comments.

As Light As A Feather is on show at Stade Hall, Rock-a-Nore Road until  Sunday 12 August. It is open every day 11am–6pm except for Saturday when it closes at 5pm. For more information, visit the Facebook page.

Posted 16:05 Wednesday, Aug 8, 2018 In: Arts News

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