The Thinking Path - Art Takes A Walk With Darwin In Plymouth

By Corinne Field | 30 April 2004
Shows a photograph of a meandering path through a wood. There are tall trees with green leaves and a bed of dead leaves carpeting the ground either side of the path.

Photo: Thinking Path by Shirley Chubb © the artist

Thinking Path is a new exhibition at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery running until August 30.

A visual response to the life and legacy of Charles Darwin by artist Shirley Chubb, it comprises video and photographs by the artist alongside objects from the museum’s collection.

Jo Hall, Exhibitions Officer said: "What is so great about this exhibition is not just its local relevance, but its marriage of art and science. The way in which the artist has been inspired by Darwin’s life is both exciting and innovative and will appeal to a wide range of visitors."

Shows a photograph of a painting of Charles Darwin in profile. He has a bald head with thick dark hair at the sides and bushy sideburns and eyebrows. He is wearing a high necked shirt with an overcoat and looks very serious. The painting has a brown background.

Photo: Portrait of Charles Darwin. Pastel drawing by Samuel Lawrence. Post conservation June 1997. Photographer Rodney Harrigan

The Thinking path was a name Darwin’s family gave to the daily walk he took around his home in Kent, where the scientist would ponder and develop his ideas and theories.

On show at the exhibition is video footage of the route of the Thinking Path filmed on four particular dates.

"They are dates significant to Darwin," explained artist Shirley Chubb, "the anniversary of his birth, the day HMS Beagle returned to this country, the publication date of the Origin of the Species and the anniversary of his death."

As well as the video there are still images of the route and museum objects from places that meant something to the famous naturalist.

Shirley selected four core pieces, a fragment of log-boat, a 220 million year-old fossil, an African pregnancy garment and a series of 20 pieces of quartz. The pregnancy garment and quartz are from Plymouth City Museum’s collection. The log-boat fragment and fossil are on loan from Shrewsbury Museum.

Shows a photograph of a bit of a map of islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Galapagos Islands are clearly marked.

Photo: Thinking Path by Shirley Chubb © the artist

Each object is accompanied by an information panel and is paired with one of the four dates. "There is almost an equation to the work," says Shirley. "I use the objects in much more of a metaphorical way than I would usually do."

The log-boat fragment, linked to the return date of the Beagle, signifies the ancient human desire to explore and the vulnerability of that desire.

The quartz, which starts off very black and becomes clearer as the series progresses, is used to represent the idea of a dense, dark theory that slowly becomes clearer as it is understood. Shirley linked this exhibit to the publication date of Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

Shows a photograph of some green foliage.

Photo: Thinking Path by Shirley Chubb © the artist

Plymouth has a strong connection with Darwin. In 1831, two days after Christmas, he sailed on HMS Beagle from Devonport in Plymouth. Marking the start of his around the world voyage to study nature, it was a journey which took almost five years and contributed to the formulation of the theory of evolution.

Thinking Path is part of Plymouth City and Art Gallery’s celebration of Museums and Galleries Month. As well as the exhibition the museum is hosting an event on June 29, from 1.10pm to 2pm, where Randal Keynes, Darwin’s great-grandson, will be in conversation with Shirley Chubb.

After its stint in Plymouth, Thinking Path will go on show at Russel Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth in October and at Down House, Kent in February.

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