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About the Art: Jane Edden

We interviewed artist Jane Edden to hear more about the Flying Jacket artworks in her new Avian Forms exhibition now on display in the Natural History Gallery. 

What inspired the pieces in this exhibition?

I am fascinated by the way people collect, categorise, name and order objects in museums. Especially in the Victorian era.

I am also interested in the human obsession with flight.

Because of the interest in flight and categorisation I decided to look at stuffed birds, and especially small stuffed birds. When you look at a hummingbird, it looks impossible and too beautiful to exist. There is an almost fake look to them. I was trying to recreate that feeling of something so small and so perfect – and then introduce all the ideas about flight.

The Flying Jackets are beautiful – tell us more about those.

Humans are drawn to birds and feathers and flight and I think there is something innately human about wearing feathers. You go to a wedding and people have feathers stuck on their heads and it is the same in Papua New Guinea or Peru. People all over the world wear feathers on hats or coats or on other items of clothing and decoration. Even if you go for a walk in the park - you pick up a feather, twiddle it around and stick it in your button hole – it is just something that we do.

With the Flying Jackets, it was also about them being miniature. If you look at a dolls house you can imagine yourself in the house - you are able to move yourself into that space and imagine what it is like. Many people say with the Flying Jackets, ‘I would like one in my size’ but I think if I made one in life-size it wouldn’t have the same impact at all. Their size allows you to step out of where you are and into your imagination – and that is what interests me.

Some of the Flying Jackets are named after aeroplanes that are themselves named after birds, for example, Osprey. Some of the Flying Jackets are also named after Native Americans, who in turn wore feathers in their headdresses. I like the way by categorising them with these names, it brings the ideas of interaction between humans and birds full circle.  

See Avian Forms in the Natural History Gallery from 25 June - 9 October 2016. 

Travellers' tails

Inspired by the Travellers' Tails project, we asked our visitors, 'Where would you like to explore?'

Since March, our Natural History Gallery has been home to the Travellers' Tails display. This display brings together the first European painting of an Australian animal, 'The Kongouro from New Holland' by George Stubbs, alongside the Horniman's taxidermy mount of an Eastern Grey Kangaroo and describes Captain's Cook's first voyage to the Pacific, where he encountered new landscapes, people, plants and animals. 

The Travellers' Tails project is a collaboration between five museums investigating the history of exploration, art and science. It brings together artists, scientists, explorers and museum professionals to investigate the nature of exploration in the Enlightenment era, how the multitude of histories can be explored and experienced in a gallery, heritage and museum setting, and to question what exploration means today.

Inspired by Travellers' Tails, we asked our visitors and our online audience to share their thoughts on exploration. The four questions we asked were: Where would you like to explore? What is left to explore? Exploration is... and My favourite explorer is...

We recieved some interesting answers. Some wanted to explore places they had never been to before. 

Some wanted to travel to hot countries, and some to cold. 

Some people wanted to go back in time to explore earth when the dinosaurs were alive. 

Many people suggested that still left to explore was the deepest oceans and outer space. 

Have you got a burning desire to explore somewhere? Who is your favourite explorer? Tweet us with the hashtag #TravellersTails to share your stories. 

Introducing Favela: joy and pain in the city

Our current photography exhibition, Favela: joy and pain in the city, is a collaboration with the Observatory of the Favelas – a social organisation based in Maré, the largest complex of favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

Jailson de Souza e Silva, Founder and Director of the Observatory of the Favelas, spoke to us about the three photographers who trained with the Observatory of the Favelas and are exhibiting here this summer.

When thinking about peripheral spaces, such as favelas, there are many prejudices. They are seen as places characterised by absence and deprivation deficient in decent facilities, services, order, education, culture and civic values. They are believed to be lawless and overrun by violence, representing the height of urban chaos.

These photographs allow us to judge favelas according to what they actually have: intense joy, pain, life, death, respect, violence, struggle, celebration, games, play, work, intimacy, complicity, complexity, simplicity and sociability among many other expressions of life.

Bira Carvalho, Elisângela Leite and AF (Adriano) Rodrigues all come from the favela of Maré – an important point of reference in their artistic work. They are all members of a vast contingent of young people from favelas and the peripheries of Brazil who refuse to be categorised as the “beneficiaries of social projects”, or mere documenters of their own daily lives.

We train the photographers to have excellent technique and an anthropological outlook. This seeks to recognise life where many see only death, invention where many see only deficit, beauty where many see only aesthetic compromise, and violence where many see only the inequality that has been normalised by the social system.

The work of these photographers allows the fluidity, richness and density of the life that is present in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas – and in all peripheral communities the world over – flow past your eyes.

Every day, by exercising their profession and their art, they show people can reinvent themselves, no matter where they come from or where they live. Because, for the person who sets out to find it, the world is never too far away, and life is never small.

“Favela: Joy and pain in the city” is realised through a partnership between The Horniman Museum and Gardens, Observatório de Favelas and People’s Palace Projects.

The Art of Islam

Objects from the Horniman's collection are on display now in a new major exhibition at Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury.

The exhibition, running from March 26 until September 24 2016, is part of the Art of Islam Festival and reflects Islamic culture and its links with Western Europe, 

Treasures on display will include carpets, paintings, furniture, metalwork, jewellery and splendid calligraphy from across the Middle East.

Among the objects from the Horniman's collection are this ewer, seal and baby cover.

 

This Bidri ware ewer is from India and dates from the late 19th century, when it was sold to Frederick Horniman.

 

This seal, dating from 1776, is engraved in Persian with a floral border. It belonged to James Peter Auriol of the Bengal civil service, who was secretary to the government of Warren Hastings in India in the late 18th century.

This cover from Sumatra is placed on the forehead of a baby (along with another cover for the baby's body) when visitors come to see it during the first forty days of life.

In addition to the Horniman's collection, exhibits will also be borrowed from the British Museum, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and from the private collection of Razwan and Sarya Baig.

About the art: Here, Now

Our current exhibition Here, Now is a collaborative project delivered in partnership with photographer Nana Varveropoulou and Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers.

Nana spent four months working alongside ten newly arrived migrants in the local area to produce a series of portraits. In this blog, we ask her about the story behind this portrait.

How did you approach this project?

The first step was to spend several days at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers, so that people got to know me and start to feel comfortable. I spent the first whole day approaching people, showing them examples of pictures and discussing the project idea.

Some people seemed interested, but most of them were understandably pre-occupied with their lives, their papers, their circumstances.

How did this particular photograph come about?

One day, I was waiting at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers to meet another project participant. While waiting, I approached this man.

OS didn't speak English, but luckily one of the many volunteers at the centre offered to help with translating. While we tried to work out a theme and a location for his portraits, he received a phone call from his caseworker who informed him that he was being moved to Scotland with immediate effect.

We were all slightly shocked - particularly OS. He kindly got back to me and told the interpreter, if you want to photograph me, you better do it here and now. I doubt that I will be here next week.

What was his reaction to this? 

He didn't seem angry or upset. He looked more resigned to the fact that he had no choice.

I asked him if he wanted to move and he said no, he didn't know anyone in Scotland. I realised that he was right - we had to do his portrait on the spot.

His experience really captures part of the reality of being an asylum seeker.

We looked around the centre to find the right spot for the portrait and came across a "Welcome" sign, which I found quite ironic. We took the portrait there.

Here, Now is on display at the Horniman until 6 June 2016.

About the Art: Luis Rey

We interviewed Luis Rey, artist of Dinosaurs: Monster Families, focusing on his vivid piece: Gigantoraptor Found.

What scene have you portrayed here?

This painting shows Gigantoraptors, a gigantic versions of the oviraptor. These huge dinosaurs were larger than even T Rex and the Alectrosaurus. They actually laid the biggest eggs of all dinosaurs.
Inspired by these dinosaurs, I wanted to recreate their nesting grounds.

What inspired you to paint this scene, and create this artwork?

First of all, my fascination with dinosaurs, usually I go to the species that fascinate me first.

Then I try to produce something that is different, and think what can I do that is different. Conducting scientific research, looking at fossils and other work is essential - if you do this, the sky is the limit.

I want to be ground breaking and provide a new vision

How do you balance the scientific facts with your own creativity?

You have to study the evidence, but paleo-illustration isn't an exact science. I study the anatomy, and the environment; I want to make them more believable animals, monstrous, not monsters.
I also want to show the dinosaur link to birds, they are not extinct and live on in this form.

What advice would you give young artists, illustrators or paleo illustrators wanting to develop their own work?

You always need to do your homework, studying your medium but the work of others and then make it your own. Everyone starts by copying, and that leads to inspiration. If you look at the Great Ovirpators next to the nesting portrait they are different medium, but my style is still there and distinctive.

The artwork on the left is digital, on the right acrylic and cardboard

How do you use digital tools in your artistic process?

We have to follow evidence, so I make amendments to paintings when new evidence is found, naturally this is a lot easier with digital art and tools.


Like dinosaurs, art is a product of evolution, with new digital media we can correct and create artworks in new ways

 

Nests and nurture

In Dinosaurs: Monster Families, we have a case dedicated to the animals who use nests to protect their eggs and raise their young.

Nests come in a huge range of shapes and sizes, using a variety of different materials. These hummingbird nests are incredibly intricate, lined with spider silk and camouflaged with lichen.

Hummingbird eggs are very small, but not relative to the adults' tiny size. On the other hand kiwis, native to New Zealand, lay the largest eggs compared to their body size.


Laying out the nest and egg related objects for our case.

The largest bird egg comes from the extinct Great Elephant Bird, once native to Madagascar. Their eggs were even larger than dinosaur eggs. These huge birds could be 3 metres tall and weigh half a tonne, more than the vast moas of New Zealand.

Some egg laying parents are very caring. Nile crocodiles are very ferocious hunters, capable of hunting fish and even antelope, but they are also nurturing parents, guarding their eggs and gently carrying their young to the water's edge once hatched.

Nile crocodiles dig a shallow hole a few metres from a water source and then cover them with the sand or soil for incubation. The eggs take about 90 days to hatch, and the female crocodiles will try their best not to leave the nest side during this time - pretty dedicated parenting.

Be sure to visit Dinosaurs: Monster Families to see dinosaur nests, as well as the eggs and nests of modern-day animals.

Meet the Artist: Luis Rey

We caught up with artist, Luis Rey, whose vivid artworks capture the exciting world of dinosaur families in our exhibition, Dinosaurs: Monster Families.

How would you describe your artwork?

I consider myself a "paleoillustrator", so my art skills are at the service of palaeontology and science. My art techniques range between the traditional acrylics and inks on cardboard, to the digital painting, where I use my computers as an "orchestra".

I have fun recreating the dinosaurs in a distinctive style, but always based on my research


Reconstructing dinosaurs has both a scientific responsibility and a labour of the imagination, we are restricted by science but fuelled by imagination.

What first interested you in dinosaurs?

I have always been interested in dinosaurs.  The Dinosaur Renaissance in the seventies and eighties saw dinosaurs became "real" animals living in a different (even if similar) natural world from ages ago.

Every dinosaur is amazing, but I think I have become more fascinated and specialised with the bird-dinosaur link, from the real look of winged Velociraptors and Oviraptors to protofeathered T. Rexes. 

How are your representations of dinosaurs unique?

I want my dinosaurs to be colourful but believable, some people might be surprised by seeing colourful dinosaurs after so many years of people reconstructing them in drab colours. I also like them dramatic.

Years ago I might also have started a personal trend towards a new, dramatic viewing angle to Dinosauria.

How do you create the scenes you paint?

First and foremost studying the anatomy of the animal, and seeing what I can provide in the artistic sense, then the sky is the limit.

Sometimes I simply paint, sometimes I even use photography, real skin, hair and feathers as digital brushes.


Dinosaurs: Monster Families is now open, you can book online and beat the queues or become a Member and enjoy free unlimited entry to the exhibition.

Name that Dino

Dinosaurs roamed the earth for nearly 150 million years, leaving us tantilising clues in the forms of fossils to try and piece together their world.

Dinosaurs have always been fascinating to humans, with extensive digs and studies unearthing species for hundreds of years, but what do you do when you find a dinosaur skeleton? Well, you have to name it and the naming of dinosaurs is as much of a science as the finding thing in the first place!

'Dinosaurs' are they really terrible lizards?

The word 'dinosaur' was coined by Sir Richard Owen an eminent biologist and comparative anatomist. An avid dinosaur reasercher, Owen worked with Benjamin Hawkins to produce the dinosaur skeletons that are now residents of Crystal Palace.

Dinosaur comes from two Greek words: Deinos (terrible - where we get the word dire from) + Sauros (lizard), so dinosaur = Terrible Lizard. This name reflects the contemporary scientific thought of the time, of dinosaurs as savage and scary creatures.

 An Utahceratops illustration

The same components are found in modern dinosaur names as well, combining sometimes two or three components to make a longer name. This name can also tell a paleontologist details about which family group a specimen is from.

Ceratops is a group of dinosaurs meaning horn face. Paleontologists can then add another element to describe dinosaurs within this group: Triceratops means Three Horn Face (because it has three horns). The name of a dinosaur can also tell you were it was discovered, like Utahceratops which means Utah Horn Face (a horned dinosaur discovered in Utah, USA).

Tarbosaurus Bataar, a name with Greek and Mongolian elements

Sometimes dinoasur names switch languages which can be another way of describing the dinosaur and where it was discovered. A vast Tarbosaurus Bataar skeleton is on display in our new exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families, but the name of this specimen is slightly complex.

Tarbosaurus means Alarming or Startling Lizard (Ancient Greek) but Bataar is Mongolian for Hero or Warrior. So the full name of our terrifying skeleton is: Alarming Hero Lizard, not only is that a pretty cool name, but the use of Mongolian refers to the species' find location.

With such an array of excellent names to have, we guessed you would want to have a dinosaur name as well, so have made a Dinosaur Name Finder based on the specimens in our displays and exhibition.

Be sure to tweet us your results and we can tell you a dino fact!

Dinosaurs: Monster Families open this weekend, you can pre book tickets online and avoid the queue.

Crocodile Conservation

Charlotte, our Conservation Officer, tells us about her work on a crocodile skull in preparation for its installation in Dinosaurs: Monster Families.

The skull and jaw (lower mandible) were incredibly dirty and were covered in an extremely thick layer of soot and dust. I removed the loose dust with a museum vacuum and soft brush and then gave the bones a further clean with alcohol on cotton wool swabs to remove the thicker layer of dirt.

 

Charlotte's cleaning a very dirty #crocodile #skull #conservator #conservation #dirt #museum #naturalhistory #london #swabswabswab #teeth

A video posted by Horniman Museum and Gardens (@hornimanmuseumgardens) on

You can see from the photos that the recesses in the skull that the teeth sit in are generally wider and deeper than the actual teeth causing the teeth to be loose in the skull. Originally, the teeth would have been held in place by periodontal ligaments but this tissue was removed during its preparation as a skeletal specimen.

Our curator wanted the skull to be displayed in a “life-like” open jaw pose and that meant I would need to secure the teeth back into the skull to prevent them from falling out.

To do this I used Japanese tissue paper which is a type of tissue made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree. Conservators use this tissue for all sorts of repairs and fills. In this case I created twists of tissue which I inserted between the teeth and bone. This filled the “void” space and created a contact area between the teeth and bone.

I soaked the tissue with a solvent based adhesive and once the adhesive dried the teeth were firmly secured in place.

The adhesive I used is reversible and that means that I can reactivate the adhesive and easily remove the Japanese tissue if a curator wants to analyse individual teeth in the future.

Now the skull and jaw can be displayed the correct way up without the loss of any teeth.

You can see our cleaned crocodile alongside dinosaur remains, eggs  and more in our new exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families that opens Saturday 13 February.

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