Small City=Big Culture: Two Exhibitions NOT to Miss

Visiting the Castle Museum this week, I was pleasantly surprised at just how bustling the whole place was with families; children everywhere, soaking up history!
A friend and I went to see the Wonder of Birds exhibition there:

What an inspired theme for a show..
Spanning time and cultures; natural history and art; the show starts with the drama of gilt. 
We entered to a wall - gold, enclosing a glass case - with an amazing ceramic hawk - from 11th century Iran:

Then on, into the space, we were bombarded by birds - above our heads, tiny brass offerings in cases, a sweet, vulnerable drawing of a dodo - alongside a Cedric Morris painting:

Contemporay, modern, ancient, Elizabethan, photography, medieval cartoon Swan Rolls, chalky mid 20th century landscapes, over 140 minute jewels of hummingbirds in a Victorian (of course) display case - birds were the main feature or an incidental detail, depending on the emphasis of the display.

Each section focused on a different aspect; cleverly colour-coded along the walls and on the information boards.
Both the content and the display itself were beautifully orchestrated, a delight. 
For a provincial city, stuck out (oh, how glad I am that it is) on the path to no-where, this is a competent and erudite show - get to it before it's gone - Finishes Sunday 14 September 2014.

Later, we called in on the exhibition; constructed by MA Curation students at NUA - Afteryears: Reflections on British Art 1046 - 1952, which finishes (the day before the Wonder of Birds) on Saturday 13 September 2014.
An early Patrick Heron; drawing from Ivon Hitchens, the very great Prunella Clough, Eduardo Paolozzi's Insect Wings collage (below), a Barbara Hepworth drawing - that reminded me of Elizabeth Frink's figures, Victor Pasmore (see further below) - all the classic mid-century Brits are here.

the space is really well plotted, the works having a flow through he show, with colours, geometry, composition, scale - picked up and played with - to create a strong exhibition. 
The curators have also related the art to the social context and the locality well - with a nod to the visitor and right here, right now - asking us to reflect on key questions with little evaluative question sheets and a pinboard

Victor Pasmore, Rectangular Motif, Black and Olive, 1950, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Estate of Victor Pasmore. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2014.
yummy colours and shapes

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