Conference of the birds 22nd – 27th June

0 Posted by - June 15, 2015 - Exhibition: Past

An exhibition of abstract paintings curated by Ashley West and Stephen Buckeridge, related to the theme of the bird as a metaphor for different aspects of our relationship with each other and with the expanse of the universe around us. Artists include Dragica Carlin, Clare Wilson, David Webb, Catherine Ferguson, Jeff Dellow, Stephen Buckeridge, Ashley West (members of Sol-Space) and others to be announced. PRIVATE VIEW: Saturday 27th June 6pm, followed by a performance by BIG LOOP at 7.30 This event was conceived in part to connect with the forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts of the ‘worlds in a box’ of Joseph Cornell, which often included birds as a metaphor for the world of the imagination. The exhibition will be accompanied by performances of improvised music in which musicians explore ‘the call’ – its origin as an impulse within the player, the process of its ‘sounding’ through the instrument and its resonance in the surrounding space or listener. Saturday 27th June 7.30: BIG LOOP – Ashley West (drums/violin), Colin Izod (sax/flute), Joe Spring (electric guitar) Guillaume Viltard (double bass). This will include readings of poetry related to the theme of birds and will culminate in an extended piece in which other musicians involved in free improvisation will be invited to join Big Loop for a final celebratory ‘coming home to roost’! More details to follow.




‘Toward the One’ Ashley West

Originally, the intention behind this exhibition was to focus on recent work by myself and Stephen Buckeridge accompanied by musical performances, with the idea of ‘free improvisation’ connecting the two. One morning however, while playing the drums in my studio, I found myself improvising with patterns that were more abstract than usual, with more room being given to the spaces in between and with a sense of the sound arising out of silence and returning back into it. This seemed to demand more openness and more acute listening. Phrases seemed animated, emerging like ‘calls’, as if something relatively small and insignificant (like a bird) was making its presence felt in an expansive universe. I was reminded of the many birds – Wren, Blackbird, Wood-Pigeon, Goldfinch and so on that had resounded so noticeably in our garden this spring, and also of Messiaen whose compositions, inspired by bird-song, I often listen to while painting. This idea is in a sense nothing new to free form musicians, but it seemed to return to me with new life and meaning. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to explore this further with other percussionists at Iklectik. It also occurred to me that in a sense artists ‘call’ to each other through their paintings in a mixed show, so we decided to open up the exhibition to painters from Sol-Space and beyond (Sol-Space is a collective of abstract painters we formed a few years ago, who visit each other’s studios on a bi-monthly basis). Other connections that became apparent were the forthcoming Joseph Cornell exhibition at the Royal Academy (his ‘worlds in a box’ frequently contain birds) and the 12th century Persian poet Attar’s ‘The Conference of the Birds’, an allegory of man’s search for enlightenment telling the tale of a group of birds, each suggesting a human trait, who search for the legendary ‘Simorgh’, only to find at the end of their journey a lake in which they see the reflections of themselves. The bird has been frequently used as a metaphor for aspects of human experience in painting, sculpture, poetry and music. One thinks of Brancusi’s ‘Bird in Space’, Miro’s bird in the sculpture ‘Monument Erected in the Middle of the Ocean to the Glory of the Wind’, Vaughan Williams ‘Lark Ascending’, Ted Hughes’ ‘Hawk in the Rain’ whose ‘wings hold all creation in a weightless quiet’ and Seamus Heaney’s ‘Blackbird of Glanmore’ ‘filling the stillness with life’. Like the group of birds in Attar’s poem a grouping of painters or musicians may recognise that they share some common vision, tenuous as that might be, while at the same time acknowledging their differences and idiosyncracies. The nature of the relationship between these two is not static. They are two essential aspects of a question related to who we are, and how we exist, both separate and together.

Ashley West