Art and Nature combine to create an extraordinary Unnatural – Natural History at Bristol’s Royal West of England Academy (RWA). While our natural environment and those bodies that seek to protect it are being decimated by industry, government and man’s unfailing greed for resources, the inspiration of both our natural world and this very decimation, is the source for many artists featured in a groundbreaking new show.
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Long esteemed as the focus of the artistic community in the West, the RWA is pushing far (and hard) down a path of reinvention. While respecting its past as a nurturer of talent, the organisation’s new director, Trystan Hawkins, is rethinking the role of the RWA and the works it displays to ensure a contemporary relevance for audiences and stakeholders, whilst ensuring a respectful nod to the art that made it great.

Traditional works sit alongside some of our (not so) YBAs and new artists, from Damien Hirst to ROA, from wildlife watercolours to subversive taxidermy. Key to this reinvigoration is the opening of a new show – Unnatural – Natural History.

Unnatural – Natural History brings together an extraordinary group of international artists under one common theme. These are artists inspired by the natural world – it’s beauty – and it’s transformation from man’s impact on it. This is a view of the world where humans do not dominate, where natural becomes unnatural.
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This is nature through the eye of science fiction, natural beings warped by environmental pressure.
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For the local and international artists exhibiting – some in the UK, or Bristol, for the first time – heightened environmental awareness has doubtlessly been influential in their work.  One of the exceptional artists in the show – Kate MccGwire, who uses a powerful and challenging medium creating otherworldly sculptural forms from feathers. Inspired by birds, water and the natural world,  MccGwire’s incredible feathered installations have been shown across the world, but it’s the first time the artist has been displayed in Bristol.

Corine Perier’s oil painting of surreal animals in desert landscapes are so beautifully executed that at first the viewer notices no anomaly. Look closer, and the supernatural mutation makes itself known.
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One artist included sure to provoke controversy is Erik Sandberg who portrays children with hairy faces and Bristol’s famed preoccupation means that Belgian born and bred ROA’s giant sketched greyscale animals bring wit, skill and art to the urban device. Italian Marco Mazzoni weaves a world based on Italian folklore of mystical women who seduce, bewitch, curse and cure, complementing Bristol-based Rose Sanderson, who has made a name for herself adorning stripped surfaces and battered books with exquisite butterflies and birds.
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Unnatural – Natural History is at the RWA, Bristol from 13 July to 23 September.