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Review: High Viz, Dead Pigeon Gallery

High Viz, Dead Pigeon Gallery
Words & images, Lorraine Bacchus

Lockdown 2.  It’s like the sequel title of an earlier, really awful film.  Its pre-publicity prompting a sense of mania in the city air on Wednesday, as people swarmed to so-called “non-essential” places before its arrival the next day.  The atmosphere of déjà vu was overwhelming.  

Amongst all the heart-sinking emails, from galleries and museums announcing, yet again, that they would all be forced to close, was one from the intriguingly- named gallery, Dead Pigeon.  The latest Show from this roaming gallery had been due to open on 5 November, the very same day as Lockdown 2 began.  Undeterred, this enterprising group hastily re-arranged it, including the live performances, with it all taking place on one action-packed day, the said manic Wednesday. 

It was a most welcome prospect and a blessed distraction from my internal monologue, railing against what constitutes “essential” according to the government’s rules: my rant being that feeding the body is not the only criteria for sustaining life; that we are mental as well as physical beings and therefore the nourishment of our minds, some might say our souls, is also crucial.  Art galleries, museums, libraries, bookshops – all the elements that come under the Arts umbrella – they all play a vital role in maintaining our health and sanity.  To force them to close, especially when they have all done everything possible to comply with Covid regulations, is like withdrawing one of life’s most essential ingredients.  There has been so much talk , and rightly so, about the impact of the pandemic on mental health … well surely there’s one obvious way to help alleviate that … don’t deny us access to the Arts!

Meanwhile, back to the Dead Pigeon Gallery.  The central ethos of this peripatetic group is one after my own heart, as the saying goes – that the arts are what sustain us.  Their particular passion is to take such cultural nourishment into the heart of working class communities. The latest place for them to appear is in the city’s Kensington area, where they were invited to take over a former bakery on the Marvin Street industrial estate. 

The Dead Pigeon Gallery gets its name from the very first place in which the group exhibited – a disused warehouse, which they had to clean up, including, you guessed it, dead pigeons.  From the outside, the latest setting looked as if it might have housed some of the same unfortunates, but appearances, as we know, can be deceptive and this was definitely one of those occasions.  Inside, the exposed brick walls, wooden beams and concrete floor made a perfect setting for this exhibition with its industrial-sounding title, High Vis. 

This is a group show of 18 local, national and international artists including painters, film-makers, sculptors, musicians and a dancer.  On being invited to take part, they were all given the same, simple brief, namely the title of the Show.  Most of them were able to visit the space beforehand, so their work is a site-specific response, as well as to the High Vis title. 

Some of the pieces are a literal interpretation of the theme but others are subtle, particularly so in the case of Brendan Lyons’ work. His bricks made out of paint so perfectly blended in with the rest of the wall, that had I not been told which ones were his, I would not have distinguished them from the rest.  The 2019 John Moore’s Painting Prize Winner, Jacqui Hallum, has continued her practice of painting on fabric, with one of her pieces depicting the Tarot’s King of Cups – appropriate, given that amongst many other things he is said to represent art and music.  He’s also said to show patience in the most trying of circumstances, something we all definitely need as we go into Lockdown 2.  The High Vis title has inspired several of the artists to use saturated colours, including Catherine Dalton’s modest but striking pieces of embroidered textiles. 

The performances all took place behind closed doors on manic Wednesday evening and were live-streamed via Dead Pigeon’s Instagram and Facebook accounts.  They were made up of Mel Bowen performing as a trio with members of his ‘The Original Series’ band, and the cellist, Georgina Aasgard performing with professional dancer, Hollie Coleman.  Professional recordings will be available in a few weeks’ time but meanwhile, recordings of the streamed events can be seen here:

The other exhibiting artists are: Robert Flynn, Ula Fung, Jacob Gourley, Joel Hansen, Anna Ketskemety, Jayne Lawless, Mark Leckey, Harvey Morrison, Chris Oliver, Gina Tsang and Collette Whittington.

The organisers are hopeful they can reopen this show after lockdown.  Let’s join them and all the other arts venues in that hope.  Meanwhile, for more information on this Show from Dead Pigeon, contact: