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4 May 2013

Earth Air Fire Water

These two little figures are encouraging you to visit the current exhibition at
The Museum of Somerset in Taunton

EARTH AIR FIRE WATER - Somerset Artists In Their Element

Featuring the work of sixteen professional artists based in Somerset the exhibition highlights how they are not only inspired by these natural forces but also how they tame, capture and work with the elements to produce artworks - whether they be fashioning stone, controlling fire in a forge or making marks with charcoal. 

I had the opportunity to visit last week. As you walk in the show poster instantly gives the impression that here are Somerset artists 'grown up' , it's time to be taken seriously, punchingly delivering their surnames, informing you that if you don't recognise these names now, you definitely will in the future.

On entering the exhibition my eye was immediately drawn to Lyn Mowat's delicate and impossible, ethereal ladders printed onto Nepalese paper. To where would a ladder of feathers or fern leaves lead? Displayed next to her heavy oak carved woodblocks, with which she normally prints, the juxtaposition worked beautifully.

The exhibition was curated by painter and community artist Kate Lynch, many of you will be familiar with her 'muted', soft oils that document the Somerset willow growers and basket makers, or her recent study of bee keepers, so it was refreshing to see here, her strong atmospheric charcoal landscapes.

Ceramics and sculpture feature prominently in the exhibition. I particularly appreciated how  Chris Dunseath had incorporated his 3D pieces within his drawings. They brought to my mind the other worldly sketches of the Australian illustrator Shaun Tan - as here were similar forms that would inhabit similar alien worlds and yet Chris Dunseath had set them in windows overlooking  the Somerset landscape.

I thought that Tom Clark's figurative stone carvings shared similar features with the woman that inhabit Jane Mowat's prints...

An exhibition in such a clean space is far removed from the elements it wishes to celebrate and convey. For a few it it is impossible to visualise the link that some of these creations have literally been born from fire. However on Saturday the 25th May a free workshop is planned and families will be able to experience hands on activities with a stone sculptor, a metal smith and a charcoal artist - which will no doubt make the connection to the elements more visceral.

Gallery spaces can be aloof at times and placing items on a pedestal can serve to underline the professionalism and presence of a 'piece.' However on departing the cool interior of the museum into the warm sunshine Serena's willow figures are running with such joy and abandon in their fluffy trousers, that you have to smile, art can be fun and the workshops and talks planned by the museum ensure that it is accessible to all. 

The Exhibition is open until Saturday 26th July.
Open Tuesday - Saturday and Bank Holiday Mondays
10.00 am to 5.00pm Last entry 4.30pm

For further information do visit The Museum of Somerset web site by clicking here

I would like to thank The Somerset Heritage Service for allowing me to take photographs. Credits are as follows - 

Serena de la Hey
Mini Man I & II
Hay and steamed willow £1,000

Jane Mowat
Feather Ladder and Hart's tongue Ladder
Mono print on Nepalese paper £500 each

Detail of Listening to the Birds
Relief carving in Oak Not for sale

Kate Lynch
Murmuration of Starlings, Dawn Departure
Willow charcoal on paper £850

Tom Clark
Boy with Hare
Portland Stone £2,500

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