Review: Why Look At Animals

Review: Why Look At Animals
at The Atkinson, until 10th March 2018

Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith

Part education, part gift-to-self, I went to see this exhibition at The Atkinson that promised loads of animals and that’s what I got. The current exhibition in the Southport gallery is basically like scrolling through Twitter on Saturday afternoon and it’s a completely self-indulgent joy to spend an afternoon with.

House pets, paintings, sculptures and crockery, this exhibition looks back at the history of human fascination with cuddly mammals and catalogues it together to remind us that cute was cute before the internet, and things went viral without even knowing what that meant. What’s funny though is that I went to this expecting to have a bit of fun, but left with a reminder of how important observation really is. It’s one thing we perhaps don’t appreciate in visual art quite enough now, the importance that observation has on our everyday work.

It’s why we go to art school, it’s why we study and learn the skills, so we can get them so deeply ingrained that we forget we even have them, then we play with them and skew them until drawing is so natural it becomes irrelevant that it actually looks like what we started with, as long as the elements were observed. So reflecting on a room of work from other ages, the lack of true observation of the elements of these creatures is fascinating, and watching that subject truth improve through the years is enlightening.

I left feeling more connected to fine art than I had for some time, remembering the value of the work, not just the subject. And if you’re not really into all that, there really are a lot of cute fluffy mammals and it makes a change from seeing them on a screen.


Whatever your reason for seeing this show, it’s open until 10th March 2018 at The Atkinson, Southport.