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Contemporary Art Season at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry

The Herbert’s new season of contemporary art features four compelling exhibitions which showcase challenging and thought provoking work by both local and internationally acclaimed artists. The exhibition I wish to focus on for this post is His Dark Materials which ran from the 24th of November 2012 to the 17th of March 2013. As always, I love discovering quirky art, which I’m sure you’ll see through this artist’s work!

His Dark Materials is the first solo exhibition by Coventry-based artist Adie Blundell. Blundell’s work is composed of new and found materials – sculptures are formed from plaster, latex, salt and iron, incorporating keys, locks, light switches and medical equipment.

Adie Blundell, Victoriana and Alchemy in Coventry.

His series of masks is disturbingly alienating but also compelling as a vision of different sides to his personality: Alchemist, Doctor, Hypochondriac, Ancient Mariner, Voyeur, and Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.  Large scale, detailed drawings of ravens, albatrosses and other birdlike creatures are presented alongside the sculptures in the exhibition.

Inspired by alchemy, folklore, poetry and obsessive Victorian collecting, the works reflect the multiple obsessions which dominate Blundell’s life.  His Dark Materials raises questions about the very nature of human existence and our precarious position within the natural world.

Adie Blundell, from The Ravens series.

He says of his work:

“It was when I first received my first Thomas Salter chemistry kit from my father that I first discovered my desire to experiment…I had always dreamt that I would have my own laboratory to research and explore the nature of chemicals and materials. So fast-forward 30 years later, I had my very own studio to discover and create in…Combining this interest with my love of alchemical imagery and folklore has produced this most recent body of work. Dark Materials is a very apt title. I use a number of processes to produce my work, but the most important process is the power of unleashing one’s imagination. It has manifested itself in my sculptures and sketchbooks.”

Adie Blundell, The Head.

The exhibition space.

I love how the exhibition space works- the masks presented alongside each other in a row of personalities, each one drawing from the other. Above these masks Blundell’s drawings are large and conspicuous allowing the viewer to focus on each image individually. As well as seeing the exhibition, I am particularly drawn to the artist’s sketchbook work. His images are beautiful combinations of thoughts and art connected in a strong relationship of words, images and ideas.

Adie Blundell, sketchbook work.

I have enjoyed discovering the work of Blundell. His work really appeals to my attraction to the macabre in art, but although these works might seem dark and brutal, there is a gentleness which is felt through the poetic use of words etched within his pieces. I’m looking forward to seeing further exhibitions in the future!

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