A celebration of the not so humble bumble
“A work of arte; and yet no arte of man, can worke, this worke, these little creatures can”
– Geffrey Whitney, 1586
“My walk to work is a constant distraction, a buzz in the air, a momentary glimpse, a pause to watch nature’s busy day.” With a garden full of pollen rich flowers it can take a while to reach the studio where artist Louisa Crispin creates her intricate bumblebee studies. Some 8000 years ago honeybees were drawn on the walls of a cave in Spain and the human relationship with bees has continued to inspire artists through the centuries.
During May, Artichoke Gallery in Ticehurst is creating a bit of a buzz with “BEe Special”, a two week feature show, a contemporary view of Britain’s favourite pollinators alongside their “In The Garden” exhibition.
Kate Osborne has built a reputation for instinctive, vibrant watercolours that highlight her understanding of bees and a new selection of paintings will show alongside Louisa’s delicate drawings. Emily Higham looked to the nest for her inspiration, using the distinctive hive hexagons to create layers of colour for her enamel jewellery. Kate Kato hides her delicate paper creations within a tiny match box, a joy to discover. While Mary Johnson’s pots “stand up for the earwigs and woodlice” it makes sense to find bees in her collection, a marked contrast in style to Julia Smith mugs, Jillian Riley’s poison bottles and Katherine Morton’s quirky bowls.
There are around 250 species of bee in the UK with many more worldwide but they are complex creatures with some subtle variations and, like us, they go bald as they mature, making identification even harder. Dr Nikki Gammans, who runs a bumblebee identification course, is trying to reintroduce the short haired bumblebee to the British Isles; it was declared extinct here in 2000 with the last recorded sighting in Dungeness in 1988. The project is a combination of habitat regeneration, education and controlled reintroduction from Sweden. It is still early days but working with local landowners has already shown improvements for other bees: England’s rarest bumblebee, the shrill carder bee, has returned to the Dungeness area after a 25-year absence and the large garden bumblebee has come back after ten years. It’s hard to draw these creatures without identifying with their plight. Nikki has been invited to host a talk about bumblebees on Thursday 18th May, contact the Gallery for tickets.
BEe Special is open from Saturday 13th May to Saturday 27th May
Artichoke Gallery, Church Street, Ticehurst TN5 7AE. Telephone: 01580 200905
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 9.30−4.30