The Curious Duke Gallery calls its new exhibition The Art of Curiosity, and indeed this eclectic exhibition will arouse and incite wonder and inspiration with its varied collection of works on display. This is definitely an exhibition for the inquisitive.
The visitor to this 300 year-old bakery-turned-gallery space will encounter an intriguing assortment of works, ranging from the multi-layered textures of abstract canvases to the sculptural forms of skateboards and 19th century saw blades reconfigured into trees and hedgerows complete with perching birds, the process of industry in reverse.
Other works present shifts in perspective of scale and proportion.Roy Tyson’s photographs and dioramas of miniature people set in larger-than-life surroundings, including a CSI scene in an ashtray complete with hazmat-suited investigators, and Lilliputian families flying kites made from mounted butterflies. Darragh Powell’s dream-like treescapes provide upward glimpses into a forest canopy, taking traditional landscape paintings to a new perspective, while his images of ravens and silhouetted urban structures give the familiar landscape a slightly nightmarish cast.
Most of these works, although beautiful, express a slightly sinister angle. Kate Knight’s seemingly delicate and beautiful paintings of birds belie a darker side. In The Bride, a white raven gracefully trails a garland of flowers, but the flowers are chained to the bird’s leg by a heavy golden chain. More obviously sinister are Mr Four Finger’s paintings of disembodied, brutalised teeth, often dripping what appears to be blood or rabidly colourful froth.
Ideas of space are also interrogated. Architect Tannaz Oroumchi’s redrawn visionary urban plans of London reconfigure familiar spaces, making decorative platforms appear over the Thames or blurring the edges of squares and streets.
Stories are also interrogated and explored. Mark Powell’s incredibly detailed Bic Biro portraits adorn original letters, including one sent from Russia to Cuba at the height of the Cold War. Likewise, a heart-rending letter sent during the war is transformed into a portrait of the mother awaiting her soldier-son’s return.
The Art of Curiosity at Curious Duke Gallery (207 Whitecross Street) continues until 17 August. Admission Free.
By Sarah Stewart