MESSUM GALLERY, CORK STREET until March 16th
|Carved and painted driftwood, 94 x 142 x 33cm|
It is a brave artist who puts flying birds on walls. Remember Mike Leigh's coruscating play Abigail's Party (1977), a suburban situation comedy of manners and a satirical attack on the aspirations and tastes of the new middle class? Am I the only one with a flight of vividly painted plaster ducks tucked affectionately away in a cupboard somewhere?
But Guy Taplin is a magician. Also in the 70s, while caring for the ornamental waterfowl in Regent's Park and training to become a Buddhist monk, on a whim he started to whittle in wood decoy-like models of ducks and geese.Now his work is in collections all over the world: curlews, sanderlings, terns, plovers, owls... In his Six Godwit Boat Panel he has given us dream birds, which capture wildness but for the moment are poised against the ravishingly lovely blue of the boat.
Below Joanna Lumley, standing beside the artist, has in her hands a single bird, an egret. In the introduction to the catalogue she describes herself as a collector who's 'enslaved to (Taplin's) skill in imagining birds in all the old bits and pieces he finds with his magpie eye'.
And here are four egrets, not confined to a hand this time, but achingly poised like ballet dancers, fragile yet tough, utterly still but pulsating with energy, with just a hint of a beautiful nightmare to remind us that these are no saccharine plaster dummies.
|Carved and painted driftwood, Four Winged Egrets 103 x 85 x 43m|
Bird on a Wire: the Life and Art of Guy Taplin by Ian Collins (Studio Publications)