Strange creatures and cabinets of curiosities dominate the first solo exhibition by Coventry-based artist Adie Blundell.
The exhibition, entitled His Dark Materials, at The Herbert fills a room and is a strange mix of things, feeling like a look into the mind and obsessions of its creator.
Best are the row of different-named masks, given a back story that they were discovered on the dried up salt planes of the island of Borneo in 1850 by a doctor, and taken back home. They are constructions made of materials including plaster, wire and salt. The Voyeur looks nosy, The Sailor has a rope between his teeth, the Albatross has an enormous bird’s beak, and the Unicorn has a horn coming out of its face. The Comedian looks like it’s got a laugh on its face, and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is a strange combination of the two creatures’ features. They all are quite attractive and intriguing.
There’s a couple of huge sketchbooks of sinister characters and scenes with text on it, made from paper, stucco, pigment and charcoal.
A ladder with two feet on it, symbolising the steps that can lead up to freedom, but the fear that can hold you back and leave you stuck on the first steps.
In the middle of the room hang other strange creatures including the Ancient Mariner and The Child with their own stories, the latter’s that his body fused with the protective outfit he had worn to protect him to create this strange thing that remained. This part of the fantasy involves a 21st century scientist discovering the masks and realised the wearers died inside them.
The Cabinet of Curiosities side of the room features things Blundell has found and collected. In many ways it’s like going into an old traditional musty museum – lots of old scientific and medical instruments and artefacts, things relating to his interests in science, medicine and natural history. There’s also a few oars and fencing masks.
Most interesting is a mirror apparently used in a searchlight on the roof of Coventry Technical College in the Second World War.
A couple of Finch Cages contain various other items, and there are two items which fit his work from the Herbert’s own collection – an amazing mummified cat found in the attic of a house in Temple Grafton in Warwickshire in 1986, and a stuffed raven, which Blundell has used as inspiration for drawings of the bird.
Another huge cabinet we are invited to open to reveal lots of his drawing books.
It’s a strange exhibition, a step into another world which is hard to define or pigeonhole but is a voyage of discovery.
*This column was due to have appeared in the Coventry Telegraph newspaper today, but didn’t, so is reproduced here instead.
Artist Susan Moore is opening her new studio in Fillongley to visitors from 11am-5pm this weekend, December 1 and 2, and also January 5 and 6, with admission and refreshments free, but donations so Shelter are welcome. Susan paints a wide variety of subjects including portraits, musicians, animals, landscapes and children on beaches. There will be more than 80 paintings on show including silk paintings and cards. 10 per cent of all sales will be donated to Shelter. The studio is at The Old Granary, Castle Close, Fillongley, CV7 8PB.
Compton Verney art gallery was used in the filming of Gambit, starring Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz, and is now hosting an exhibition of film memorabilia to celebrate its release. Items on show include plans and a scale model of the Compton Verney film set, film stills and signed photos of the stars. The exhibition is on until December 16.