Unnatural Histories on National Bird Day

Friday, 05 January 2018

To acknowledge our feathery friends on National Bird Day I would like to bring our attention to a forthcoming exhibition in the Glass Tank gallery. Trompe l’Oeil by Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Theory Paul Kilsby will be coming to the Glass Tank in April 2018. (Trompe l’Oeil will be live between 5 April 2018 – 3 May 2018).

In anticipation of Kilsby’s solo exhibition and in awe of his photography I would like to share a small part of his collection, Unnatural Histories with you today.

Jackdaw with Scorpion
Golden plover with Cockroach

These three pieces Tawny Owl with Moth, Golden plover with Cockroach and Jackdaw with Scorpion set the mood for Kilsby’s exhibit. A very theatrical, subject orientated mood. These birds – although all are taxidermy – have been bought back to life within the meticulous placing, lighting and storytelling of the artist. These deep ominous backgrounds do not just illuminate these beautiful specimens, but seek to question their viewers also. The concentrated gaze of the deceased birds is surprisingly, not at all harrowing, but instead gives these birds a purpose and personality. This gaze accounts for an imagined story of the lives they had prior to their role within Kilsby’s art. Yet it is not just their gaze, but I believe, the insects within these portrayals act as a catalyst in respect to their stories. For much like the lamb attributes John the baptist I want to believe these insects attribute their captors. I want to believe that this attribute has formed through grandiose storytelling, a fable, scripture or tale. Least to say these birds -surprisingly- do not lack life.

Kilsby’s work focuses on the idea of Trompe l’Oeil (a type of forced perspective). His art darts towards the inquiry of the audience and settles on sustained illusion that pulls us further and further into the realms of his photography.

Perhaps this is why these birds demand the space and we are captivated by them also. Although National Bird Day is probably not what the artist had in mind when creating these works, it has certainly sparked an interest of ornithology in me. Even after life they are being given a presence and authority of what they were. They have been given a respect.

Kilsby will be exhibiting these portraits from Unnatural Histories alongside other bodies of work including, Trompe l’Oeil, Gazing Globes, Flora Nova