Extinct species remembered in Ghosts of Gone Birds at Brighton's ONCA Gallery

By Jessica Strudwick | 13 November 2012
A photo of four black crucifixes with black birds fixed on them on a white gallery wall
Stephen Melton, Crosses© Stephen Melton
Exhibition Review: Ghosts of Gone Birds, ONCA Gallery, Brighton, until January 31 2013

Extinct birds have been brought back to life in a Brighton gallery where more than 200 artists, writers and musicians are backing frontline conservation projects to save endangered species around the world.

Coal black birds on crucifixes confront visitors to Brighton's newest space, the ONCA Gallery, in a stark depiction of what the organisation is trying to avoid in the future.

It might be a strong and somewhat distressing image, but Brandon Lodge’s work proves no less effective. Paradoxically, his creatures are full of life – some even look evil as their eyes follow you around the room. It's as though they are angry at the way society has simply given up on them and let them disappear. 

Stepping outside, a series of empty bird cages are hung in what seems like a never-ending darkness pierced by birdsound echoing into the distance.

Back inside, Sir Peter Blake’s Dead as a Dodo brings the situation into focus with powerful simplicity. His trademark bright pop art is replaced here by a list of the hundreds of birds which are either extinct or critically endangered. The names fill the canvas – apart from a small dodo illustration at the bottom.

“For me, Ghosts of Gone birds is a really beautiful project,” says gallery director Laura Coleman. "It is growing every day, with more artists signing up. Each artist in the project chose an extinct species of bird, and breathed creative life back into that bird."

With painters, sculptors, writers, poets, musicians and street artists, all at different stages of their career, contributing, the exhibition is unsuprisingly varied – despite its coherent and thought-provoking theme.

  • Onca Gallery, St George's Place, Brighton. Open 12pm-7pm (11am-6pm Saturday and Sunday, closed Monday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @ONCAnetwork.

More pictures:

An image of a yellow, pink, grey and black illustration of a huge bird on a hill at night
Red Snail-Eating Dodo© Camilla Westergaard
A photo of an illustration of a dodo in black ink on yellow paper framed on a gallery wall
The Dodo© Rose Petal Deer
A photo of a series of large egg shells with cracks in them in a painted sculpted bowl
Empty Nest (Dinner for the rats and Cats)© Jackie Hodgson
A photo of a black ink illustration of a beady-eyed owl in profile on yellow paper
Laughing Owl© Alexia Claire
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