Bring on the Dancing Bears

PUBLISHED: 15:11 04 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:38 20 February 2013

Archangel Michael.jpg - Archangel Michael by Emily Young

Archangel Michael.jpg - Archangel Michael by Emily Young

Wiltshire's art galleries always put on a good show and here's just a selection of exhibitions that are on this December and January.

Meryl Ainslie, director of Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre, welcomes Kerry Phippen to her gallery with her first solo exhibition. Meryl says, "Drawing is at the core of this artist's ideas and creative development. As a centre for drawing excellence we exhibit the work of many leading contemporary artists for whom drawing is at the centre of their work." Kerry Phippen's drawings began with sketches from the collection at Edinburgh's Museum of Childhood. The toys observed there became a 'distorted reality' as their characters 'came to life' in her sketchbook. Drawing on location, Kerry absorbs the characters from her sketchbooks into playful compositions, darker scenarios 'evoking childhood fears and fantasies'. The image which has been selected to advertise Kerry's exhibition is an ink drawing of a sitting horse contemplating a crouching childlike creature. Kerry says, "For me, this image sums up the encounter of the circus. The spectacular, brought up close enough to touch, becomes an almost mystical experience, and the real and the fantastic collide right in front of your eyes."

When Kerry first experienced Gifford's Circus she realised this could be inspiring research for her drawings. "I went to see Gifford's Circus during their last tour and the intensity of that experience has remained in my memory. Being given permission to use the circus to make work from has been incredible and has given me direct access to physical and emotional subject matter. I love that one minute you are captivated by beauty, the next reduced to childlike giggles."

Kerry studied for her BAHons at Swindon College, where she was awarded a First, followed by an MFA at Bath Spa University College. Kerry had been taught by Meryl Ainslie at Swindon College of Art and was selected by Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre for her dedication to drawing. Meryl says, "I love the strong emotional connection that provokes laughter when you are uncertain whether you should be terrified or amused by an act. This edginess comes across really well in the wet and dry media that Kerry uses."

'Bring on the Dancing Bears' runs until 13 December at Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre, Mildenhall. (01672) 511999

Heads with Tales

Emily Young, one of Britain's greatest contemporary sculptors, is exhibiting seven-and-a-half newly sculpted 'Angel Heads' at Salisbury Cathedral until 8 February 2009, to celebrate the building's 750th anniversary. The heads, one for each century of the cathedral's history, are installed in three different locations. Up to one metre square and weighing almost a tonne each, they are sculpted from the same Purbeck stone as the cathedral. The four largest heads will be placed in the main nave with the much-celebrated new living water font by William Pye. Two more will be situated in the Trinity Chapel facing the famous Prisoner of Conscience Window, and one-and-a-half will be found in the cloisters looking towards the cathedral's soaring spire.

The artist, described as having 'inherited the mantle as Britain's greatest female stone sculptor from Dame Barbara Hepworth', has work featured in public and private collections worldwide. "I use the word 'angel' to describe the stone heads I make, and the discs too, because in its original form the word simply meant 'messenger from the heavens to man'. The word 'angel' also carries an imaginative message. They see timelessly and beyond space, are more beauty-filled and wise than us, and they are like mirrors to our most high-minded desires and visions - ideal imaginative creatures, reflections in the heavens. These stone heads are born of moments of consciousness of what and where we are. They are the stone embodiments of mankind's high aspirations; the archangel traditionally embodied these aspirations - compassionate, all knowing and just. And there is an acknowledgement that our human aspirations are pitiful in the face of the universe, but valuable for all that. Stone or flesh, we are all the stuff of the universe; stardust, in differing forms."

Canon Treasurer Mark Bonney said, "We are very excited at the prospect of seeing Emily Young's new Angel Head sculptures here in the cathedral. Everyone who has visited us since 2004 will have seen her 'Lunar Disc' sculpture in the Cathedral Close. It is a great honour for us that Emily has sculpted these new and powerful angel heads to exhibit here. Through her art these heads represent for us a deep sense of spirituality, humanity and optimism, and we expect many a photographer to take on the challenge of picturing their magnificent reflections in our new font!"

'Heads with Tales', an exhibition of Emily Young's angel head sculptures, will be on show in Salisbury Cathedral until 9 February 2009. (01722) 555148


Until 7 February, Swindon Museum & Art Gallery is presenting a new venture, 'Echoes', an exhibition uniting sculpture by James Castle, with a selection of paintings from the Swindon Collection of Modern British Art. The exhibition is co-curated by the sculptor himself, who has selected works which focus on mythology, personal associations and the use of symbols such as the sun and moon. His interest in mythology is expressed through his choice of Christopher Le Brun's 'Hyperion' and Stephen McKenna's 'The Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs'. The power of the personal is intimated in paintings by Christopher Wood and John Bellany and his strong use of symbols is reflected in works by Cecil Collins and Eileen Cooper. These themes are evidenced in James' painted, carved and laminated wood sculptures, which both stimulate the imagination and explore the various spaces that sculpture can occupy within the gallery environment.

'As Close as an Eyelid' incorporates a recurring fish motif whilst referencing the rolling hills of the Scottish landscape. 'Empty Vase', with its metamorphosis of the familiar objects of tulips and container, drifts from the wall to the floor, and the freestanding 'Malmesbury' gives a romantic lyrical interpretation of the town in which the sculptor lives, whilst inhabiting the space in which we, as viewers, also exist.

James Castle was born in Scotland but now lives and works in Wiltshire. He curated a major exhibition of 20th-century sculpture at Gloucester Cathedral and Malmesbury Abbey, and he is also Senior Lecturer in Sculpture at the University of Gloucestershire. James has recently been elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.

'Echoes' runs until 7 February 2009 at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery. (01793) 466556

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