STAFF ONLY Exhibition Review – Stroud

staff only gallery shot.jpg“Weird and Wonderful” the local newspaper called it.  This is the exhibition that sneaked up on a small town and helped launch its annual arts festival in style.  The creators of this show are a modest, unassuming bunch who usually work in the shadows of another, let’s be honest, more famous artist.  Unused to the limelight themselves, they quietly installed art work which had been made in private, unseen even by one another.

It is probably  against arty protocol to review a show in which one appears, but it’s not often you get to work and exhibit with 22 ecclectically brilliant artists – and if any group deserved a shout out, it’s these guys.  I helped to put the show together and my alter-ego Caz stuck some work up, but I really want to talk about them:  The others.

Despite the apparent diversity in style and form, one exhibitor, Jennifer Cape – who’s vibrant oil spill seascape Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico dominates one wall – said she saw common threads: “it might be turquoise or shapes, but I feel the connection between them all”.  Perhaps because I enjoy storytelling, my own feeling is that the 40 or so artworks on show tell a story – they take you on a bizarre journey that is at times a masquerade ball, part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, part Lemony Snicket and ends in the violent death and then gentle resting of a female pheasant.

Visitors to the show might almost expect to see taxidermy, poison, a skull, even flammable liquid, but they might also be surprised at their juxtaposition with shapes (especially cubes and pyramids), turquoise, blue, orange, cockchafers, racoons, bees (in fact 147 animals not including the pheasant or the dead fish).  Who would expect a stealth fighter and a pansy to be seen together? With titles like Trojan Horse and Dust, Wings & Wavesthis is not thoughtless work – it is clear that every aspect of this collection, from the making, to its naming and its installation in an empty building in the centre of Stroud, has been very carefully executed.

This weird and wonderful collection is only open until Sunday 10th April 2016 – I urge you to visit, before these artists retreat once more to the shadows.

Staff Only Exhibition, 20 High Street, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK

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