Hounds at the Chicken by Meg Campbell

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The word ‘hound’ has an ancient ring about it, you can hear it speak, it conjures up a history and a mythology. They are hunting dogs bred either for their speed or their scent and, like all dogs, are genetically related to the loping wolf.

The three artists interviewed are all fascinated by myths and folklore. They speak of stories of Welsh ghost hounds, black dogs, the Norse god Odin often depicted alongside two wolves or hounds, King Arthur’s hound Cadfel, and further back in time Cerberus the multi-headed hound – guardian at the gates of the underworld, and Orthrus the two headed hell hound.

It’s unusual for the Chicken gallery to have an exhibition with a theme but the artists participating in this one say it’s challenging, it makes you think in ways you might previously never have dreamt of.

Also it’s one of the aims of the collective to work sometimes as a group: to interact with each other, share ideas, develop and change.

Hound brooch, Sara Piper-Heap

So we see jeweller and metal-smith, Sara Piper-Heap – whose work is in galleries all over the country including London – and who has up until now always produced finely crafted geometric pieces. But for this show she has had to consider the narrative.

She developed her ideas in Bob Knowles’ drawing classes, branched out into the art of enamelling and began to reconsider the way she works.

Sculptor Bob Knowles’ approach to this show has been to observe hounds closely, especially their attitude, which is often assertive but not necessarily threatening. To me he seems to be asking ‘what is the essence, the intrinsic, spare, and unornamented character of this particular animal’?

He says that the most interesting images are moving ones and which can be hard to capture: a rolling hound thrusting its back into the ground, a wind hound, a bird hound . . . these are some of his interesting and successful pieces. Attitude? Definitely.

Sherlock,  Judith Harrison

When asked what attracts her to hounds, Judith Harrison takes up the same theme, the strong and memorable shapes and her interest in the animal’s roots reaching far into the past. Her long running project is to produce a book using her collographs and Sara Piper-Heap’s text (possibly including photos of Sara’s metalwork.) It will feature twenty three historic hounds such as Picasso’s ‘Lump the Dachshund’, and a basset hound called Sherlock that Elvis serenaded on TV with ‘You ain’t nothing but a hound dog’. Four of her excellent collographs for the book are completed to date and are hanging in the gallery.

Recently there has been talk by Shropshire Council of putting metal sculptures of animals such as giraffes, made by a local company, around the town centre to attract tourists.

Councillors, county and town, would do well to take a trip to the Chicken Gallery and take note of the fact there are up to three hundred artists in Oswestry and the surrounding area. Why not use them to enliven the town centre so that it’s a place people want to be?

Are giraffes appropriate for a small market town on the Celtic Fringe? Wouldn’t a pack of hounds be better?

The artists participating in this exhibition are Bob Knowles, Sara Piper-Heap, Judith Harrison, Annie Tullo and Maggie Furmanek.

With thanks to Meg and all at OS21

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