Mark Norris in the Newquay Zoo Education team has created a display window at Falmouth Art Gallery for their ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ summer exhibition at Falmouth, which started on 22nd June, using part of Newquay Zoo’s library and his own Edward Lear Nonsense collection.

This is another link up between the award-winning Falmouth Art Gallery and Newquay Zoo as a partnership that has been going on for over 15 years, including a John Dyer art residency at the zoo and the Darwin 200 celebrations in 2009.

What makes this a little different for me is that this is the fulfilment of an exhibition planned for Lear’s birthday bicentenary in 2012.Whilst this celebration happened in many zoos, galleries and museums around the UK, it sadly didn’t happen here because I was ill that year. So it’s an idea seven years in waiting or only seven years late!

The main focus of my display window at Falmouth Art Gallery is my growing collection of illustrations of Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ poem, voted in 2014 the nation’s favourite children’s poem.

Amongst the collection and books from Newquay Zoo, on display is an Edward Lear animal painting of an owl (reproduction print), Nonsense Botany, Lear postage stamps and vintage Steiff hand puppets of the Owl and the Pussycat.

As well as being well-known for his limericks and nonsense poems, Edward Lear was also a highly talented Victorian painter of animals in early zoos like London Zoo and Knowsley, as well as an accomplished landscape painter.

Also on display is Spike Milligan and The Goons book cover designs including Spike’s Milliganimals poems and drawings. There are some of those funny lift the flap / mix the animal body part books including a cigarette card version dating back to the 1930s. A final animal cartoon touch is a humorous Gerald Durrell illustration of his travels amongst animals (a colour print rescued from an old Jersey Zoo Millennium calendar).

Knowing how much I loved nonsense like Spike Milligan, the Goon Show, cartoons and animals, my Mum and Dad started my Lear collection when I was young with the gift of an Edward Lear mug and book (both on display) and it has slowly grown from there.

This really is a fabulous and fun exhibition with original Spike Milligan paintings, pen and ink sketch drawings by Edward Lear and original Tenniel woodblocks and prints for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. There are even translations and audio in different world languages of The Owl and the Pussycat!

Working with rare animals at Newquay Zoo as a part of our conservation charity Wild Planet Trust is both great fun but at times a very serious business, so it’s good to relax with a little nonsense now and again!

If you haven’t yet been able to visit Falmouth Art Gallery then not to worry as the summer exhibition will be up until 7th September.

http://www.falmouthartgallery.com/Exhibitions/2019/1438~Stuff_and_Nonsense

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