The Natural Eye is the annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists, showcasing a wide-ranging collection of fine art that has been inspired by the natural world. As well as painting, drawing and works in a variety of printmaking techniques, a number of sculptures feature within the exhibition. From larger than life pieces, to those that are true to size, this collection of some of the sculptures within the exhibition is full of charming characters, who bring impact, spirit and personality to a space.
The first sculpture to showcase is ‘Form’ by Liz McLelland
Liz McLelland Form Stoneware ceramic 11 x 30 x 16 cm, £650
Liz’s sculpture shows a sheltering hare in a peaceful pose and was hand-built from well-grogged stoneware clay then finished with iron oxides and glazes. Liz shared her story behind the sculpture: ‘I sculpted this hare in winter after heavy snow. She had hunkered down against the cold in a shallow depression in the soil, where the bare-branched hedgerow behind offered little shelter. I imagine as she crouches in her form that she's thinking of warmer spring days when she can test her suitors' mettle with mad dashes and frenzied sparring. I'm just happy to have this moment with her lying still and quiet while my frozen fingers made quick sketches of her form.’
Next is Jill Moger SWLA’s stoneware sculpture Hog Log.
Jill Moger SWLA Hog Log 18 x 44 x 13 cm, £980
Jill described how for many years she had hedgehogs in her garden that she was regularly able to observe on her night camera, and one year, found a nest with four or five babies, which served as her inspiration for this sculpture. Jill’s realistic depiction of the baby hedgehogs highlights the struggles that they go through within their natural habitats which have been hugely exacerbated by the loss and fragmentation of hedgerow homes along with increased uses of pesticides, meaning there are fewer suitable and safe areas for hedgehogs to nest and roam.
Jill explains: ‘Baby hedgehogs have white spines at first, gradually gaining some colour as they develop. Their little wrinkled faces, hands and feet are various shades of pink with some grey and their eyes only begin to open at about two weeks old. My sculpture is not meant to look cute or sentimental. I have depicted the babies before their eyes open, struggling awkwardly in and on the log with the mother hog seemingly oblivious.’
Simon Griffiths SWLA has a number of ceramic sculptures within the exhibition and one of those is Kestrel.
Simon Griffiths SWLA Kestrel 153 x 16 x 15 cm, £750
Simon describes how Kestrel is a unique ceramic sculpture, hand made and fired to stoneware temperatures, meaning it is suitable for display both indoors and outdoors, that is mounted on top of an oak gate post. Simon has depicted the kestrel with large black eyes, reflective of their razor-sharp vision which helps them to catch their unsuspecting prey.
The next sculpture to highlight is Rachel Taylor’s stained glass, metal and slate piece titled Kingfisher Diving.
Rachel Taylor Kingfisher Diving 70 x 30 x 20 cm, £1,740
Rachel describes the beauty of a kingfisher and the creative decisions she made when creating the sculpture:
‘When we stop a kingfisher for a moment to admire his iridescent fire and water colouring, we often have to choose between fire and water, between his shimmering azure back and crown, or his rich orange underparts. In this piece I celebrate those varied, indescribable blues; the colours of a deep lake, of the summer sky, of an August evening on the Welsh hills. Or, so often, the not-really-there-but-imagined cerulean streak in the air, trailing a whistle like a streamer of sound as he whips upriver on a sunny afternoon.’
Rachel has captured the kingfisher in motion as it dives down into the imagined river in front of a bulrush plant. The kingfisher is made of 34 pieces in 10 different glasses, fixed onto a carved Highland slate base whilst the bulrush behind the kingfisher is made of aluminium, steel and brass.
Pair of Otters by Adam Binder SWLA is a bronze sculpture.
Adam Binder SWLA Pair of Otters 70 x 25 x 27 cm, £11,000
Adam works with fluidity and flowing forms allowing his sculptures to capture a sense of movement and emotion, depicting the essence of his subject. This sculpture of intertwining otters is reflective of the way that otters are extremely affectionate with one another whilst they play together in the water and on the river banks, and despite there not being much detail within the sculpture a great sense of character is still felt.
Adam explains: ‘While I’m sculpting, I feel I am engaging with the spirit of the animal. For me, nature and sculpture are the perfect marriage. I see repetition in form, line, mass and detail throughout the natural world, sculpted over time but in perfect harmony. I want to portray the simplicity of form, smooth flowing lines, natural rhythm and in doing so, free the eye to engage in the detail.’
The next sculpture to highlight is the president of the Society of Wildlife Artists Harriet Mead’s sculpture Fork Feathered Raven
Harriet Mead PSWLA Fork Feathered Raven 46 x 53 x 29 cm, £3,950
Harriet works with scrap metal and found objects to create her fantastical animal sculptures. She recently spoke to wildlife cameraman Jack Perks on his podcast ‘The Bearded Tit’ which you can listen to here. Harriet says that through her sculptures she is trying to capture the experience of the reality of the animal when you manage to observe them in the wild, in the moment before they run away. She is obsessed with structure and works to make her animals as anatomically correct as possible.
The last sculpture we are highlighting is Michelle Hall’s Natterjack Toad
Michelle Hall Natterjack Toad Bronze (edition of 50) 4 x 10 x 6 cm, £550
This detailed and textured bronze sculpture of a life-like toad is inspired by Michelle’s childhood memories. Michelle expands: ‘Turning over a log and finding a beautiful toad is one of my fondest childhood memories. Observation has allowed me to explore the form, texture of their skin, and behaviour of these endearing animals.’
We hope you enjoyed learning more about a selection of the sculptures that are featured in The Natural Eye annual exhibition, which are even more impressive when viewed in person! The Natural Eye runs from Thursday 14 to Sunday 24 October, we do hope you are able to visit us!