9th April to 11th May 2013

The Sky Is Falling In. This series of works continue to develop ideas about constructs within constructs, in painting and image making - both formally and conceptually. The life forms that inhabit their sombre grounds are presented in a kind of liminal state, stuck somewhere between different perceptions and experiences of the world. Failure, hope and the abstraction of death are ideas that persist in the work, usually through an implied language. The impossibility of using painting to make pictures that can cope with these subjects, leads the work into areas of digression: And to imagined scenarios and relationships between people, animals and birds. There are other preoccupations here. The tension between ‘natural’ environments and the pervasiveness of the synthetic is heightened in the work by the inclusion of some type of portal or object in many of the pictures: Forms that emerge in the work might become an environment for the protagonists to exist in, or an ornament on which they can perch. In this sense, figurative and narrative elements are always being under-written by a formal sensibility that has been developed through many years of making abstract paintings. One of the key things in the works presented here is that the imagery remains suggestive and ambiguous, whereas the scaffold surrounding that ambiguity is something utterly constructed.

Bird Songs To my Father is a series of twenty-three works, has a very specific point of origin. Her father made a list of birds spotted on the weekend of the 20 – 22 August 1976, at Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve, on the East Coast of England. There is something very particular and yet quite arbitrary about the list - and what it has come to signify has made it a compelling subject for the production of these paintings. The objective approach taken by the method of actually painting the birds from the list has made the process of working with this subject more like a vessel through which to lament, quietly and from the safest of distances; time. The list, written in the back of her father’s bird book is his only remaining personally authored document, a snapshot of a longstanding preoccupation with something. There is specificity in this list that now seems to go beyond the day-to-day activity of simply spotting birds, having accumulated over time, for me, a kind of poetic status. The paintings of the birds are numbered according to where they fall in the list, and their images of birds are based on those in the book where the list is written. Listing and indexing are activities that perform to the tidiest of human behaviours: sorting, ordering, collecting, storing. In a poetic sense the methods adopted by an archivist are perhaps not that dissimilar to those adopted by the bereaved, for who the gravity and consequences of death can perhaps only be dealt with incrementally. In an orderly manner, and unfolding through many years of lost and caught reminders.

"Those who speak in tongues are said to have increased activity in the emotional centre of their brain, whilst the language centre shows a marked decrease. Although often associated with religious practices, it is the trance like states or other kinds of irrational incantations associated with this phrase that are of interest here. There is something curiously non-human or ‘other’ about such ritual utterances and the title of this show brings together two distinct bodies of work that seem to chatter to one another in just such a way. Whether through fantastical narratives or what appear to be indexical observations, the common visual utterances here are in the anthropomorphic images of birds and other creatures, in their attempts to communicate. Whether waiting, watching, visiting or fleeing, they may be trying to tell us something both unspeakable and unknowable."

Over the past decade, Sarah has developed a profile in contemporary painting, both nationally and internationally, exhibiting in major art venues in London, Stockholm and Dresden. Sarah’s work is represented in numerous private collections, has been awarded Arts Council Grants, as well as garnering significant art prizes and nominations. In 2010 her work was selected for the Royal Academy Summer Show; in 2011 for the prestigious Mostyn Open and Threadneedle Prize, where Sarah was a shortlisted finalist. Currently Senior Lecturer and Award Leader in Fine Art at Staffordshire University, Sarah has been teaching in higher education since completing her MA in Painting at Wimbledon School of Art in 2001. During this period she also completed a PhD in Fine Art at Loughborough University.

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To complement developments for The Bird Yarden AirSpace Gallery is delighted to be hosting a solo exhibition by Sarah R Key. "Speaking in Tongues" is a composite exhibition comprising two strands of the artists' current practice, demonstrates two different approaches.

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Sarah R. Key, The Sky is Falling In, Gallery installation view
Sarah R. Key, Birdsong To My Father, Gallery installation view
Sarah R. Key, Goldfinch, No. 17, 2013
Sarah R. Key, The Sky is Falling In, Gallery installation view
Sarah R. Key, Birdsong To My Father, Gallery installation view

AirSpace Gallery is a collaborative, artist led project in Stoke-on-Trent, providing professional development opportunities, studio and exhibiting space and support for artists.

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