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Talk: Paul Kilsby on Unnatural Histories

Nicky Akehurst - Akehurst Press
Event organized by Nicky Akehurst - Akehurst Press

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Fine Art Research (FAR) presents a talk by Paul Kilsby, artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Theory at Oxford Brookes, as he discusses his new exhibition at the Glass Tank Gallery.

At first sight the exhibition appears to be a series of photographs of birds capturing their prey at night, illuminated by a flash or car headlights. In fact, they are staged by the artist, in his studio, using taxidermy specimens.

One idea behind the project is to call into question the way we often accept photographic images as ‘proof’.

Another is to offer a gentle parody of television series by David Attenborough and others which always show nature at her most spectacular, often adding exaggerated artificial sound effects and intensely dramatic music.

Dr Kilsby argues that these immensely popular programmes have the cumulative effect of raising our expectations to the point where everyday nature can often seem rather dull and uneventful - even disappointing. ‘It sounds almost like heresy to criticise Attenborough, he is such a hero of the environmentalist movement, but I would argue that programmes like Blue Planet 2 are dramas rather than documentaries. The creatures chosen are always the most spectacular engaging in the most extraordinary behaviours.’

In a related series, also on show, KIlsby creates hybrid flowers grafted together onto a single stem. These take their inspiration and aesthetic from Dutch seventeenth century flower paintings which sometimes show flowers blooming simultaneously which, in reality, flower only in different seasons. Kilsby explains that the images offer a critique of the headlong pursuit of ostensibly ‘better’ flowers through genetic modification, cloning and grafting.