Show breathes life into extinct birds

GHOSTS OF GONE BIRDS, ONCA Gallery, 14 St George’s Place Brighton.

Ghosts of Gone Birds is a fascinating exhibition and conservation project that successfully captures the essence of birds that are either extinct or endangered.

The artists contributing to the exhibition have used a variety of different techniques to express their views on an increasingly worrying issue.

A dead seabird sculpture by Stephen Melton is presented in a wooden box with a plaque telling us that 40 percent have been lost in the past 10 years, cartoon rodents in shirts and ties beat up a helpless bird in a piece by Oliver Harud and maps by Serio Fernandez use coloured icons to show exactly which birds have been wiped out around the world.

A bizarre drawing by Jamie Hewlett (best known for the cult comic ‘Tank Girl’) depicts a crow being driven like a car and pieces by Luke Thomas Smith have QR codes so visitors can download birdsong to their phones.

The gallery gives a strong sense that birds can be colourful individuals. The Guadalupe Caracara by Brandon Lodge has a look of dignified intelligence, the Laughing Owl by Beatrice Forshall gazes sadly into the viewer’s eyes and the New Zealand Bush Wrens by Kittie Jones seem to dart about in the frame.

There’s also a sense of the lost potential of extinct animals, which is best conveyed in Camilla Westergaard’s ‘Red Snail Eating Dodo’. This imaginary creature combines three extinct birds – the Red Rail the, Snail-Eating Coua and the Dodo – and asks what could have happened if they had survived and interbred in a piece that is both amusing and poignant.

The exhibitionruns until January 31, 2013. Admission is free. Visit onca.org.uk.