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BEWARE BIRDFOLK @goldfishbowlgallery

An important aspect of art is showing people the work and this is not something I am good at. Don't get me wrong, I will happily talk your ear off about a weird Bird print I have produced but ask me to curate a space and I will run for the hills. That is why this show has been so important. As third year students at Falmouth University we were given a space next to the Goldfish Studios and tasked with turning it into a professional gallery. A team was assembled, proposal forms drafted and criteria written. I became a part of the team as a helper/handler, and was tasked with general helping out. To establish the gallery we did a hodge-podge show of work called Introduction that I was able to exhibit one of my standing BirdFolk in. Now, enough background.

BEWARE BIRDFOLK

was the title of the self-produced solo show I did in the Goldfish Bowl Gallery . From inception, I knew that this show was intended to be fun and playful and, although I had thought of finding more artists, I was up for the challenge of doing it solo. The show went through some rescheduling due to Easter opening hours at the University Campus but opened Monday 25th of April to a brilliant reception considering it was deadline season on Campus as well as a week or so before we had to begin hanging our degree shows.

Pictured: The instagram format poster.


Now, before I show you pictures from the actual exhibition I must first wax poetical about my experience: it was terrifying, but in the best way. Planning the show, was a lot of allowing myself to produce as much work as feasible and envisioning my main installation piece as the central theme. In discussions with my tutor (shout out to Laura for being a legend) it was acknowledged that the timing of this show meant I needed to create not one but two shows that were distinct enough from each other to be engaging due simply to the fact that my degree show would be less than a month after this one. Curation was proving as challenging as I had envisioned.


Within my initial proposal for this solo show I had suggested just exhibiting my work, however, it became apparent that showing a random selection of my work could undermine the experience of my degree show. And thus, it became a show focusing on BirdFolk with one key difference between the two shows, that my woodcuts, my 'best' work would not be present for this solo show.

Pictured: The leaflet available at the show


Thus, a key theme established. I began curation and picking my work in earnest. I now had criteria! That giant screenprint of an owl - great but not a BirdFolk, so get it out of my sight! Watercolour studies of the local areas with BirdFolk - perfect, bring it here! You get the idea. I was exploring the BirdFolk, a hybrid, strange figure that inhabited my art. The only outlier was the installation piece that had been the key point of my proposal and the reason for this show.


I had been producing rather odd, minimal posters inspired by warning signs and paranoia. These posters had playfully spun 'bird watching' to 'BIRDS WATCHING'. This series of work aimed to explore the figure of the bird as watcher, active participant in that weird relationship however kept it vague enough to also suppose that the figure of the bird may not be watching you... or is it? I aimed to exaggerate and highlight this by creating posters featuring vaguely sinister outlines of birds, covered in many eyes, observing. This then developed into other languages. In my mind I envisioned a dystopian world where things were odd and mutant and a person who was extremely sure that birds were watching them. Think, the recent movement of people thinking pigeons are actually government spies.


Long rambling story cut thankfully short, I wanted to stick these on a wall. Messily. I wanted to flypost. One problem: is there a way to do that legally? After maybe too many googles and pointed questions, I decided it best to take this external mass communication methodology and simply place it inside. Yes, this would mute it ever so slightly but perhaps the jarringness of something this messy and external being inside would feed into the grunge look I envisioned. Thus the 'Beware Wall' was borne.


Pictured: a very rudimentary digital mock-up of the 'Beware Wall'

This was to be the crowning glory. A towering wall, an ode to the paranoia and bird. Something monumental to feel dwarfed and curious of. I screen-printed over one hundred copies of my posters in preparation.


So, get to the point, what did the show look like?


Rush me all you like, but I must make some acknowledgements. To my housemates, who I have constantly annoyed with my BirdFolk lurking outside our bathroom, thank you for your never-ending support. To the whole of my year at Fine Art, you are legends of constant inspiration. To the Goldfish bowl team, special shout-outs to Francisco and Paige as our fearless leaders, thank you for your support, advice and guidance as well as just generally holding the team together. To Sophie Leapman, you last minute saved the show, I was definitely about to hang those paintings in the wrong place. To Ella for always being there as a friend, supporter and a highly professional photographer. To the technicians, Tom, Becky, Jane, and Andy, you will never be able to comprehend what an impact you have had on us all. Thank you for everything. And finally, to everyone who came along to the show despite deadlines looming and my general weirdness, you're the best.


Amelia, please. The show. What did it look like?


It was awesome.

Red and Yellow screenprints of beware bird posters covering a wall

Entering the space you were first greeted by some cardboard cut-outs of BirdFolk. These figures are life-size, standing as tall as you, maybe even taller. They interrupt the space and become lurkers, catching in your vision as figures watching.


Then, directly in front of you, the wall.



Plastered with posters all warning of the same thing, it is overwhelming and immense. The work is framed on a white gallery wall, a clean gallery floor but speaks to the exterior. Rips and tears, the cinderblocks it is plastered on warping the flimsy newsprint paper used to disseminate the message. The piping on the wall, a distraction to the clean gallery, but not this installation. Instead it speaks to the industrial. The main colours are reds and yellows, warning colours. The posters do not seem to have borders, breaching the ground and spreading to plinths, as if parasitic. Beware, Birds Watching.



Next to it, an old, rather clunky monitor with a simple four split screen display. In each screen static and fuzz, videos blipping in and out. A BirdFolk inhabits a dingy room, vaguely recognisable amongst the trash before seemingly disappearing to work. Perhaps a corporate job in that ill-fitting suit. Another screen shows a Puffin-headed BirdFolk walking in a back lane before stopping and staring. More BirdFolk staring directly at the camera flicker in and out. One screen seems to be glitching, eyes flickering and warping. This loops. The BirdFolk don't stop watching.




Following the work around, in a clockwise direction, the next wall is more typical of a gallery. Five screenprints hang beside the installation. Separate but in conversation with. These are 'old timey BirdFolk', in garbs now commonly seen in museums. The Ostrich, Osprey, Duck, and Parrot headed BirdFolk are poised in portrait, a sense of tradition and age in the pieces.


Beside this wall another explosion of colour and movement, BirdFolk are jumping, sashaying, running, walking, leaping, posing. They are as bright and bold as their colours, outfits made of explosive and fun yellows, reds, pinks and greens. These acrylic paintings starkly contrast the old BirdFolk to their side, now it is fun and funky. Breathless and airborne.


And suddenly the BirdFolk are no longer in some abstract space, removed and studied despite their watching eyes peering from their pieces. Now they inhabit our world. A Seagull and Pigeon lurk by some bins in Falmouth Town. A BirdFolk, walks past the Falfalfel van commonly found on the Moor. Except, this is flipped, an error of print or the suggestion of a mirror world? A world different and removed.


Finally, we come to watercolour studies. Most locations these BirdFolk inhabit are that of Falmouth Town; the train station, local pub, high street and various other locations appearing in these mundane and muted tones. It is simple and regular, if not for the BirdFolk. Beneath these studies, heads on sticks. Not gruesome but playful, inviting.


"BECOME BIRDFOLK"


scrawled on a wall. A friendly cardboard stick to hold a head over your own. Why remain human, when you too, can become BirdFolk?



OPENING NIGHT GALLERY

Photography by Ella Mae Vincent - @ella.mae.vincent - ellavincent.com















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