Tawny Owl, after Thorburn
c2010 by Rebecca Jewell
Rebecca Hossack Gallery until 24 December 2011
Jewell’s work remembers a very exciting time for both art and history — when illustrative documentation was a key part of scientific exploration, and when the specimens found were often prized as colonial artwork. Jewell’s work has this energy of discovery ; there is an old English feel throughout her exhibition, with work displayed in mahogany and glass cabinets, circular frames, and under glass domes — very like the relics of some prized expedition. There is also a great sense of the history of illustration, from the hand-drawn pencil drawings to the heavy printing of the etching press; her art breaths the air of museums, where form and colour seek to remember rather than just represent. This is then carried by the material Jewell chooses to print on, metallic birds printed on luggage labels — swinging tags telling of birds and those that discovered them — as well as the delicate feathers of the discovered birds themselves. Jewell’s printing on feathers is particularly poignant, as ink crisply clings to the delicate fronds of the feather’s fan, bleeding out in sumptuously coloured veins in the soft downy tufts near the stalk. Beautifully printed birds peer out from the leaves of their skin, in a strange juxtaposition of subject and ‘paper’. Jewell’s work provides a welcome range of discoveries for the viewer, in not only presenting us with a range of intriguing bird-life but also drawing our attention to the much forgotten history of the figures and voyages that discovered them.