Thursday, 2 May 2013


                      One of Lizzie Farey's nests in the grounds of Gracefield Arts Centre

What is it about nests?  We marvel that with only a beak and a clawed foot a bird can construct a nest which varies from something that looks like a heap of kindling to an intricately woven sphere lined with moss and fluff.  The swallows and house martins are back, busily renovating and new-building their amazing mud dwellings under our roofs.  Did you know it is good fortune to have a swallow nesting in your loft?  Forget the mess – it’s worth it for the luck.
Perhaps it’s the combination of safety and fragility, seclusion and vulnerability.  We even use “nest” as a metaphor for our own homes – youngsters fly the nest, parents suffer from empty nest syndrome.
Today I visited Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries for the “Locating the Nest” exhibition – a collaboration between print-maker Hugh Bryden, craft-artist Lizzie Farey and poet Tom Pow.  The exhibition is prefaced with a quotation from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space: “When we examine a nest we place ourselves at the origin of confidence in the world”.
Tom Pow’s meditations on nests are direct and moving -
            “In time of war, birds build nests”
            “Absence makes a nest: heartless”
The poem on the Crossbill’s nest has an immediate impact in the last few lines –
            “You don’t need ...        overoiuu uuuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu uu uuu
              ... to have felt the wind or smelled the pine, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnn
              to know what’s precious in your life.”
Hugh Bryden’s linocuts of nests set up a triologue with the sculptures and words.  Their strong clear lines enclose eggs of different colours and are set off beautifully by being displayed in groups of four.
Lizzie Farey’s nest forms are wonderfully tactile, made of woven twigs.  They vary from the semi-abstract - “Rooks” - to the delightfully inhabitable - one “Nest Form” is constructed of willow, moss, grass, heather, birch, bog myrtle, larch, honeysuckle, rush and a tiny twig of gold leaf (a reminder of the Corvids’ habit of incorporating shiny objects in their nests).  A bird could move in tomorrow.
My eye moves from sculpture to prints to words and back again.  It’s a brilliantly curated exhibition and well worth seeing.  Locate the Nest before it closes on 17 May and be inspired.

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