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Unnatural - Natural History is an extraordinary exhibition opening at Bristol’s Royal West of England Academy (RWA) - recently in the news for showing Andy Warhol’s childhood sketch of Rudy Vallee.
Unnatural - Natural History is an artistic exploration of an alternative world. It is a world where the dominant species are not human and natural objects are metamorphosed into unexpected and unnatural forms. A place in which genetic mutations and environmental pressure have altered the natural course of evolution.
Chippy Coates, one half of Coates and Scarry says “ We asked artists from around the world to explore the theme of “unnatural natural history” and the results are diverse and alluring. It’s a blend of innovative art, creative ideas and lateral thinking.” With this in mind, the exhibition looks to create a stir and stimulate rigorous discussion as to what can be considered natural.
For the 35 local and international artists exhibiting – some in the UK, or Bristol, for the first time – heightened environmental awareness has doubtlessly been influential in their work. One of the exceptional artists in the show is Kate McGwire, who uses a powerful and challenging medium in itself creating otherworldly sculptural forms from feathers. McGwire’s incredible feathered installations have been shown across the world, but it’s the first time the artist has been displayed in Bristol.
One artist included sure to provoke controversy is Erik Sandberg, who portrays children with hairy faces and Bristol’s famed preoccupation means that Belgian born and bred ROA will be a welcome addition to the community. His giant greyscale animals truly bring wit, skill and art to the urban device. Italian Marco Mazzoni weaves a world based on Italian folklore of mystical women who seduce, bewitch, curse and cure, complementing Bristol-based Rose Sanderson, who has made a name for herself adorning the stripped surfaces used by her painter and decorator father with butterflies and birds.
Together accolades of Coates and Richard Scarry include collaborations with the Bristol City Museum on Art on the New World summer show in 2010 and the Modern Fabulists group show, highlight of the art calendar for Bristol in 2011 plus other international shows. They also have an established an international fan base following the diverse series of interviews they conduct with artist on the ‘Coates and Scarry’ blog.
Placing a strong emphasis on education at their exhibitions, Coates & Scarry have planned a program of side events. For children, there will be workshops with Rose Sanderson, and for adults, there will be talks by Bristol University’s Dr. Giles Brown on art buying for beginners and also for artists.
Unnatural – Natural History is at the RWA, Bristol until 23 September. Entry is £5 full price, £3 concession and free for under-16s. Visit rwa.org.uk or call 0117 973 5129.