Michala Gyetvai’s work L’après midi d’une faune
An exhibition inspired by the diary of a well-known local writer aims to explore local wildlife but also has something to offer for the art lover.
Between the taxidermied birds and animals in Nature Notes at The Herbert are artworks, a mixture of new ones and others drawn from the gallery’s store rooms.
The exhibition is described as uncovering the natural world and investigating how wildlife adapts and changes throughout the seasons. There are things to touch and smell, with interactive activities, as well as lots of natural history specimens. The exhibition is split into the four seasons, and there are artworks along the way depicting nature throughout the year.
Yellow Irises by Angela Brazil, © Independent Age and Women’s Careers Foundation
Angela Brazil, the writer of schoolgirl stories who spent most of her adult life in Coventry from 1911-1947, was also a keen watercolour painter of botanical subjects, and there are a number of her works in the exhibition. She also kept a nature diary, and it inspired the exhibition itself. Her works on show include detailed paintings of various types of fungi, wild strawberry plants, yellow iris, hawthorn, and closing with mistletoe and snowdrops.
Warwickshire-based textile artist Michala Gyetvai’s large thread and fibre on wool blanket work L’après midi d’une faune work was inspired by a walk in Hay Wood in Warwickshire, and also music by Debussy and a poem by Stéphane Mallamé. It is a swirl of greens, yellows, blues and purples and looks like nature at the midst of a weather storm.
Gillian Irving’s Summer 2 is a print with images on it including beetles, flies, wild and cultivated flowers laid out as on a specimen table. Margaret Taylor’s pencil drawings of buttercups and daisies are simple, clear and attractive.
Cora Perks’s Willowherb II from 1963 is an oil painting of this early-flowering plant, and a lively mix of red and white whisps.
Moving from summer to autumn, Chelsea Meadow’s lino printed paper from 2015 shows the clear lines of a fox, rabbit and mushrooms. Douglas Hatfield’s Duet or Duo is a dry point etching on paper of owls seeming to speak to each other. October in the Cotswolds is an oil painting by Wilfrid Hawthorn from 1949 of a girl walking down a village lane, with autumn rolling in as shown by some green trees and others where the leaves have already gone brown.
The Pike by Coventry-based Adie Blundell is a more recent work, involving marble, ink, and wood looking a bit like a traditional stuffed and framed fish, but with drawings on it.
For winter, the works include Snow in Tendring Park from 1958, a painting by Hugh Cronyn with the white snow contrasting with dark blue wintry trees and sky, painted with big splatters of colour.
Herbert Cox’s Snow Scene with Hedge is a small and pleasant 1910 painting, with cottages and trees.
In the centre of the gallery Orwell the Owl swoops, made by Chelsea Meadow with wings from old pieces of material, and the perch the base of a Christmas tree.
Whether you find the taxidermy attractive or not there are some interesting and detailed natural and botanical works in this exhibition to make it worth visiting anyway.
Angela Brazil’s diary, which was the inspiration for the exhibition © The Herbert