Autumn, for many people, is a favourite time of year. Far from simply
a season of colder, darker days dwindling into winter, it’s a time of golden light, celebration of harvest, the beauty of the leaves turning and the comforts of woolly jumpers and a roaring fire.
Catherine Rayner’s exhibition ‘Rustlings’ explores these themes through the eyes of wild creatures, such as foxes, squirrels and badgers. ‘I love the colours of autumn, and even the smell,’ she says.
Painting in golds, coppers and conker browns, Catherine has also been thinking about animal behaviour at this time of year. Busily searching out and storing food, or looking for suitable hiding places, many wild creatures are inordinately busy. Mice peep out from russet leaves, while badgers root in the undergrowth, all brought to life by Catherine’s distinctive mark-making. In a new development, Catherine has also painted a number of creatures as they lay sleeping. These touching works warm the heart and contrast sharply with her images of the more active animals. Perhaps it’s because they draw out a protective instinct or a compulsion to cuddle up, or to stroke. Or perhaps it’s their natural symmetry - neatly tucked in paws, perfectly spiralled tails; velvety eyelids, sealed against the world.
In her picture books, Catherine’s characters are often overcoming challenges by finding inner-strength or resolve. Preparing for winter is a vital time in a small creature’s life – not enough food or lack of a warm nest is a serious problem for a harvest mouse. But Catherine Rayner’s animals, though sleeping, are not passive. There is a poignant stillness to these images, but at the same time, the creatures are bursting with life and potential, coiled and ready to leap into action while they await the coming of Spring.
Their story is about to begin.
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