Angela Gladwell brings her passion for museum artefacts and swirling rock pools to Shrewsbury in the form of an immersive exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, opening this Friday 1st July - by Imogen Morgan
Artist Angela Gladwell has had a strong affinity for natural history since childhood. Growing up in London, the overgrown allotments behind her home gave her access to a natural space that would become influential in her career.
These early musings on hawkmoths, tadpoles and natural history objects are reflected even in her current works (she has been painting full time since 1993).
At her local art school, Angela was told not to continue painting natural history. Years later, as a student at the Royal College of Art, Angela was told that no one would ever love her, as she puts it, 'with all my tadpoles and things'. However, her love of nature worked in her favour when she found out the art school had chosen her based on her favourite hobby - “I bred caterpillars and they’d never had anyone who did that before,” she says.
Angela's love of the natural world shines through each piece she paints. She has worked with many themes throughout her life, earning her the descriptions of a surrealist, tree painter, garden painter, portrait painter, and a natural history painter. Yet Angela retains a broader view of her own art: "Simply, I am a painter interested in many things that visually stimulate, old things, rusting things...I do not like to be categorised.”
Her paintings can be viewed upside down, sideways and upright, with different images and ideas being created accidentally each time the painting is regarded. “I learnt the word pareidolia,” Angela says, which is described as 'the tendency to see images in different objects'. This visually striking experience is echoed in many of her paintings, but most notably, through her paintings of beaches and water.
"I never know what I am going to paint next," she says.
Despite not having exhibited much in Shropshire, Angela has shown work in well-known venues such as the Booth Museum of Natural History in Brighton and the Barber Art Gallery on Birmingham University Campus, as well as having work included in collections belonging to the Natural History Museum. Her classes at the Ludlow Museum Resource Centre were suspended due to the Covid outbreak, but her adult art classes are set to resume this coming autumn.
Angela’s exhibition in Shrewsbury will feature two of the most prominent themes that have taken her interest over her many years of painting: rock pools and beaches, and museum artefacts and specimens. Along with her chosen selection of paintings, the exhibition will feature a looped tape playing on a large TV screen, showing more paintings dealing with the two themes. The exhibition opens on Friday 1st July and runs until Wednesday August 31st.