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Arts

‘Subterraneous’ exhibition exposes bug underworld

‘Infestation Chair’ by Jacqui Symons and Richard Dawson

The hidden world of insects and invertebrates is set to be revealed in a unique art exhibition in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and UNESCO Global Geopark.

Over 50 creations will be on display in the ‘Subterraneous’ exhibition being held at Bowlees Visitor Centre in Upper Teesdale from 2 to 29 September as part of the North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Cold-blooded and Spineless project. Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project raises awareness of invertebrates, acts for their conservation and highlights their importance to our environment and our lives.

‘Subterraneous’ will uncover the world of invertebrates, largely hidden from view beneath our feet, under rocks and under water, and sometimes even beyond the limits of human perception. The work has involved artists from the newly-emerging to the internationally-recognised, both local to the North Pennines and from further afield.

The exhibition will be an unusual meeting of entomology and art. Furry creatures will invade the exhibition space at Bowlees Visitor Centre and a variety of sculptures, sound and images will emphasise the importance of invertebrate conservation. Works include ancient fossils in sandstone, vibrant insects made from recycled silk ties and even a sculpture that functions as a soil ecosystem. There will also be an ‘infestation chair’, covered in a screen-printed design, celebrating the beauty and complexity of insect life.

A complementary exhibition will run from 2 September to 12 September at Wynch Bridge End Cottage, which can be reached through a short walk from Bowlees via Low Force. Work produced during Cold-blooded and Spineless school sessions involving print and origami will be on display here; Allenheads-based artist Alan Smith’s video installation will immerse visitors in sub-aqua (hyphenate) sounds and other-worldly (hyphenate) images. A glasswork gallery will show North Pennines’ special invertebrates in all their vibrant colours, produced by Durham artist Janet Rogers and local Teesdale adults and children.

Samantha Tranter, the North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Cold-blooded and Spineless Project Officer, said: “This exhibition will help people of all ages and backgrounds to see another side to invertebrates or bugs. These creatures are either overlooked or considered creepy, but they are actually very beautiful and essential to our survival. We hope the variety of media used by such interesting artists will get people to see them in a different light.”

There are 30,000 different species of invertebrate in the UK. According to the State of Nature report, 66% of invertebrates studied in the uplands have declined in the last 50 years. Yet for many species there is insufficient data to predict population health. Invertebrates are underappreciated for their contribution to the function of our ecosystems, from soil nutrient cycling to pest control and pollination. Many invertebrates are a vital food source for all types of birds, fish and mammals.

On Saturday 7 August two leather craft workshops, with Weardale artist Mark Rowney, will take place at Wynch Bridge End Cottage. This is for people of all ages to have a go at a collaborative piece to add to the exhibition. Booking is required for a morning or afternoon session. For more information on this workshop and events offered during the exhibition go to www.northpennines.org.uk/events. Entry to the exhibition is free.

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