Alice Sielle, Raven facing right 620
‘Raven Facing Right’ by Alice Sielle

You don’t have to be a twitcher to enjoy birdwatching in East London, as a new exhibition of drawings, paintings and sculptures of birds attests.

Aviary, which is at Transition gallery this month, is an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and drawings of birds by 16 artists.

“It’s not a big space, and it’s quite high up as well, so we really want to ram it so you step into something that feels animated with all these birds,” says painter Matthew Krishanu, the exhibition’s co-creator.

Acorn & Jay Rose Wylie 620
‘Acorn & Jay’ by Rose Wylie

Three of the artists in the exhibition (Sutapa Biswas, Aubrey Williams and Rose Wylie) have works in the Tate collection.

Krishanu will be displaying some of his own paintings of crows, and traces his interest in the birds back to his childhood growing up in Bangladesh.

“We’d often see crows around and I’d be fascinated by them, they’d be picking out bits of refuse on the side of the road and they’d be just everywhere,” he says.

For Krishanu, ‘bird art’ is very different from other types of animal portraiture.

“There’s something very domesticated about pet portraiture, whereas there’s more about the spirit of freedom when people sit down to paint birds,” he says.

‘Tick Bird’ by Aubrey Williams

Aubrey Williams’ Tick Bird is part of a series of paintings of the tropical birds of Guyana, the Caribbean and South America. Krishanu says Williams’ work in particular shows how birds can be “signifiers of place”.

“He was born in Guyana, and when his daughter was growing up he wanted to use the paintings as instructional tools so she knew about all these birds in the Caribbean and South America. Of all the artists in the show his exploration is very culturally grounded.”

In literature, humans are regularly described as having bird-like features, and Krishanu says some artworks in Aviary function as self-portraits of the artists.

Lonely Pigeon – Nathan Eastwood 620
Lonely Pigeon by Nathan Eastwood

Birds that feature in the exhibition include Alice Sielle’s Raven Facing Right, jays and a ‘lonely pigeon’. Other works include Rose Wylie’s large drawing Acorn & Jay, which incorporates text, collage and paint.

There will also be watercolours by Sutapa Biswas, Franki Austin’s glasswork and porcelain bird sculptures by Annabel Dover.

Aviary is at Transition Gallery, Unit 25a Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, E8 4QN until 21 May.

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