The outcome of five years of collaboration between artist Andy Holden and his ornithologist father, Peter, Natural Selection is an engaging, intriguing and, at times, unsettling exhibition. It’s another reason to visit Towner, especially as the Eastbourne gallery strikes out for survival in the face of further cuts mandated by austerity.
Natural Selection is a strong example of what Towner exhibits well: a small-ish show that has big ambitions and achieves them. On the face of it, a reasonably simple collection of artifacts and presentations related to birds, there is a lot here that sticks in your mind, culminating in the final room in which eggs from all manner of birds are laid out, collected in nests held in a cornucopia of Very British Boxes (King Edward cigars, novelty tins, that sort of thing). Not only is this about the beauty of the birds, it is also about obsession, about strangeness, about conflict between the most vulnerable in nature and the strong who observe them with curiosity.
The show has arrived in Eastbourne after positively received stays elsewhere. I can’t really add to that chorus of approval except to say that if you can go, you really should.