‘Beast’ exhibition explores the human-animal divide  

Five internationally renowned artists will be displaying their work in a new exhibition at Tonbridge School’s Old Big School Gallery.

Beast, which will open to the public on Saturday 18 January, will feature photography, paintings, sculptures, drawings and film, as the artists explore the human-animal divide. This unique exhibition will only be staged at Tonbridge and will not be touring elsewhere.

The artists featured are Laura Ford, Mark Fairnington, Nicky Coutts, Edwina Ashton (who is Kent-based) and Kay Walsh.

Emily Glass, the Gallery’s Curator, said: “The Beast exhibition reminds us that our relationship with animals is both complex and conflicted, and the artists use their skills to humour and disarm us, making us question our assumptions and beliefs. We will get to see large-scale drawings of a gorilla using sign language to communicate, a five-feet sculpture of an elephant boy standing awkwardly in pyjamas, and a round oil painting depicting a minotaur’s eye in exquisite detail.

“The artists in this exhibition reflect upon the frameworks we create to distance ourselves from other creatures. We collect, document, display, categorise, eat and breed them, yet we are also enticed to understand them in very human ways. Animals have human emotions and thoughts in books, cartoons and films, and of course our pets are part of the family.”  

Laura Ford has exhibited internationally, including at Turner Contemporary, the Venice Biennale British Art Show (where she represented Wales) and at numerous venues in Europe. Beast will feature her large-scale bronze sculptures, including those depicting The Three Bears. 

Mark Fairnington is a Reader in Fine Art at the University of the Arts, London, and has exhibited internationally, including at New Art Gallery Walsall, Peter Zimmerman Mannheim, Wellcome Trust and the Horniman Museum. He will be showing oil paintings of life-size prize-winning bulls, 1.8metre-high insect specimens and close- ups of the eyes of mythical creatures.

Beast will include Nicky Coutt’s large-scale charcoal drawings of Koko the Gorilla. Nicky is based in London and teaches at the Royal College of Art. Her work has been shown at venues including China Academy of Art and Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Edwina Ashton makes films, performances, drawings and sculptures. She has exhibited at Camden Arts Centre and most recently at Tintype Gallery in London.

Kay Walsh, who lives and works in both London and New Zealand, will be showing her recently completed film All His Rights. Most recently she has exhibited at Southwark Park Gallery, Studio 1.1 and Shortwave Projects in London.

Beast is open to the public every weekend between 18 January and 23 February, from 12pm-4pm. 

The exhibition is open for booked groups during the week: contact erg@tonbdridge-school.org to book.


Pictured, top right: The Three Bears bronze sculptures, as seen in Pilane Sculpture Park in Sweden.

Below: Pipe-Smoking Cat; Prodigy; Bedtime Boy; The Three Bears.