ReWild: Behind Runway Gallery’s Latest Exhibition

It’s time to go wild. 

We are not talking about drinking one too many pre-mixed cocktails from a can during a Zoom party (as wild as it gets in 2020), we are talking about ReWild, a virtual exhibition from Runway Gallery.

Curated by Lee Sharrock, and Runway Gallery’s director and artist SYRETT, ReWild is an environmental exhibition which is taking place at Runway Gallery from December 3-10.

The aptly named exhibition takes its name from the work of the national treasure himself, Sir David Attenborough, whose new book and documentary, A Life on our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future, sees Attenborough’s plea to humanity to “Rewild the world”. 

Out of the Darkness II - SYRETT
Out of the Darkness II by SYRETT

Attenborough’s work is never too far away from the thoughts of the featured artists who respond to the climate crisis in their art, that captures the beauty of a planet which is under destruction.

It is only right, therefore, that a percentage of the proceeds will go to Friends of the Earth, a San Franciscan-born company who promote peaceful sustainability in over 70 countries around the world. 

Contributing artists- Abigail Fallis, Alexander Newley, Ann-Marie James, Bruce Atherton, Corran Brownlee, Evi Antonio, Graeme Messer, Hayden Kays, Jimmy Galvin, MM (Maxim), Pandemonia, Simon McCheung, SYRETT, Tom Waugh, Toni Gallagher and Trish Wylie are ready to change the planet, one artwork at a time.

Pandemonia street-trash
Street-Trash by Pandemonia

In the wake of the ReWild exhibition, one big question arises: How does their work promote sustainability? Magazine caught up with them to find the answer, beginning firstly with MM, otherwise known as Maxim from The Prodigy.

“I believe all industries have a responsibility to encourage people to live sustainably, and that includes the art world. The state of the planet involves everyone, from all walks of life, not just artists”. 

MM continued, “We need to keep the issues at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and we can all make small changes to the way we live, to ensure that future generations still have a wonderful planet to live on”.

The artist then went on to offer tips for individuals who are looking to create art in a sustainable way, suggesting,

“Use as many old and recycled materials as possible, for example, wooden boards, and minimise buying ‘brand new’ items every time”.

MM is renowned for creating a combination of sinister and beautiful images, which, in many ways, mirrors the state of our beautiful planet, which is being contaminated by sinister waste and fumes. Furthermore, the artist is also known to promote strength and positively, both of which are central to the ethos of the ReWild exhibition. 

“That is one way to interpret my work! In some ways, I can agree with that” MM continued:

“This planet is a beautiful wonder, with amazing flora and fauna, big and small, no matter where you look- we humans are continually damaging these lifeforms, in one way or another, and that includes damaging ourselves too. 

Thousand Hands by MM

In order to live a healthy and fruitful life, we all need to be strong in our beliefs, and positive in our attitudes and intentions, to benefit ourselves and those around us”.

London-based artist, Hayden Kays has already made an established mark in the push for sustainability, after his Big fish, little fish, plastic bag, which highlights the damaging effects of single-use plastics, was the best selling print at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2019. 

While Hayden Kays raises attention to the notorious impact of single-use plastics in the earth’s oceans, Sculptor, Tom Waugh, tackles the harmful imprint of your favourite take-out coffee cup.

Yes, it is sad, but true, that your beloved take-out cappuccino is not helping the fight for a more sustainable planet. However, we wouldn’t mind a cup of whatever Mr Waugh consumed the morning he came up with Flat White, an impeccably crafted marble sculpture of a discarded coffee cup. 

Flat White by Tom Waugh

Flat White is a hyper-realistic sculpture of a crushed coffee cup carved in precious Statuario Marble” began Waugh.

“The value of the material used and the attention to detail creates a cognitive dissonance when set against the worthless subject and the humorous title of the piece”.

“This raises questions about the value we place on objects and the impact consumer culture has on the natural world.” 

Alongside Flat White, the exhibition features Anthropocene Fossil No.1 which is part of a series Waugh named after the “current geological era”, named the “Anthropocene’, which, he says, is “defined by human impact on our geology and ecosystems”. Waugh continued:

“In my series of Anthropocene Fossil sculptures, I imagine what the fossils of the future might look like. Anthropocene fossil number 1 depicts plastic coffee lid emerging from a rock and serves as a stark reminder of the impact of plastic pollution”.

Waugh is not exclusive in his exploration of the anthropocentric world, as featured artist, Toni Gallagher, expands upon further in reference to her own work.

“Humans, having evolved with anthropocentric values are destroying our planet, the balance in nature is tipping like an ill weighted see-saw” began Gallagher. 

“Mother Nature is more powerful than us; we have created an unsustainable relationship with the planet which threatens the survival of every species on Earth, we need to listen and act now”. 

Central to the ReWild exhibition, Attenborough’s research provokes his audience to restore the “stability” of our world by restoring its biodiversity. “It is the only way out of this crisis that we ourselves have created” states Attenborough. “We must rewild the world”. 

There is an undeniable urgency behind Attenborough’s message. One which Gallagher highlights, and one which is also ever-present in the work of contributing artist, Ann-Marie James. 

Hercules at the Crossroads by Ann-Marie James

One may say, therefore, that we are now at a crossroads, and Ann-Marie would agree. ReWild will showcase her Risograph prints, which are from her series, Hercules at the Crossroads, and are “based on a print by Albrecht Durer of the same name”. James continued: 

“I have extracted and re-worked just the trees from Durer’s original, and I kept his title, because here we all are, as a planet, at a crossroads.”

James is correct- this is a global fight, affecting environments across the world, from Australia, where we witnessed the horrifying bush fires from November 2019, to here in the UK, and across the ocean in the US, where contributing artist, Trish Wylie created Pearl in The Desert and Pearl in the Desert with the Virgin Mary in Joshua Tree, California. The two pieces, which feature in Re: Wild, was the result of Wylie’s trip to the Mojave Desert last year. 

“The first [was] with my family and granddaughter Pearl, the second a solo trip for ten days painting watercolours” began Trish. 

“The Mojave Desert includes the famous Joshua Trees, which were stunning in all their unusual presence; they are an iconic feature of the desert as are Coyotes, Road Runners, and Cholla Cacti. The Joshua Tree has been given temporary endangered species status due to their declining numbers, from climate change, wildfires and habitat destruction due to urban sprawl”.

Hearing of holidays in the Mojave Desert may seem like a distant dream in the age of the Covid-19 pandemic when the closest you can get to Cali is by binge-watching La La Land during your WFH routine. The virus that has shaken up pretty much every aspect of life; however, there is a slight silver lining, in that, lockdown is healing the planet.

According to National Geographic, the global lockdown has led to a sharp decrease in CO2 emissions, with grounded flights, empty streets and a ban on travel causing a significant reduction in fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. 

As the world continues its battle against the Covid-19 virus, another fight lives on- the fight to save our environment. While we may not be able to travel physically at the moment, the vibrant art pieces exhibited in ReWild offer an escape to a faraway land while having a positive contribution to the environment at the same time. 

We’ll take our pre-mixed cocktails and cheers to that. 

Check out ReWild here.

By Megan Slack- Contributing Editor at Magazine by Runway Gallery.

Header Image by Simon McCheung.