From Scottish Otters to Indian Tigers – Two Superb Wildlife Exhibitions

Spring Fling teams up with Dumfries and Galloway Council to celebrate art and photography inspired by nature


Beautiful paintings, photographs, original prints and textiles from artists inspired by wildlife are about to go on show in two new exhibitions in Annan.

One called Springing Wild features work by eight visual artists and designers from across Dumfries and Galloway. Between them they have won many awards for their depictions of wildlife and nature – John Threlfall was named as Bird Artist of the Year 2007 while Margaret Walty has RSA gold medals for her botanical work.

Springing Wild has been organised to coincide with another remarkable wildlife exhibition in the same venue. Tiger, Tiger is about the work of Frederick Walter Champion who pioneered the use of tripwire photography to capture remarkable night-time images of animals in India. Both run from 1 April to 31 May at Annan Museum.

Among the animals photographed by FW Champion, who lived in the region, was the Langur Monkey – a creature that also captured the imagination of John Threlfall when he visited India. The Rockliffe based former ski instructor recently published Drawn to the Edge, an artist’s look at the wildlife and habitats of the UK coastline, which was chosen by The Guardian as one of the best nature books of 2013.

John said: “I am really looking forward to the exhibition. I share FW Champion’s love of tigers and other Indian wildlife. I have spent time in tiger reserves – these are animals with such an aura and presence about them, it is a powerful emotional experience to see one.

“Langur monkeys are also beautiful creatures. Like us they love to sit around in the sunshine. They have such expressive faces and whacky eyebrows – everything they do makes you smile.”

Springing Wild is one of a series of exhibitions across the region, and elsewhere in the UK, being organised by Spring Fling ahead of its annual visual art and craft open studios event which takes place from 24-26 May.

Springing Wild exhibitor Margaret Walty, from Langholm, tends to focus on the plants birds and animals around her and even took up gardening so she could grow wild flowers to use in her paintings.

She said: “Virtually all my work is inspired by the nature and wildlife around me, and I am very fortunate because Langholm has such lovely hills and woods around it. Having said that, one of the pictures I will be showing is of an otter which my husband and I saw when we sat down to have our packed lunch on a beach on Iona. He arrived on the rocks, sat there and ate his fish, then plopped back in the water.”

This love of Dumfries and Galloway’s countryside is also shared by Ailsa Black, from Carsethorn, who is well known for her whimsical paintings. She said: “I love watching the people and animals along the shoreline in front of my studio. I get a bird’s eye view and an endless source of inspiration. 

“I regularly see porpoises and otters, as well as boats and people walking their dogs.  From the back of the studio I look onto fields with cows and hills.”

According to Leah Black, Spring Fling Director, the idea for Springing Wild was developed after learning about the plans for Tiger, Tiger.

She said: “We wanted to hold an event in Annan and when we heard about Tiger, Tiger it seemed a great idea to work together and offer people two really interesting exhibitions.

“F W Champion’s tripwire photography was an amazing breakthrough, capturing the night-time lives of many animals for the first time. And next to that people will be able to see contemporary work by some superb visual artists and designers who are bringing their own insights into the natural world.”

FW Champion used camera traps and tripwires to produce photographs of Indian wildlife in the 1920s and 30s. Champion went against the fashion for shooting with rifles and took up the camera. The resulting work is stunning and evocative.

Night shots triggered by tripwires were, at the time, unique and his work has had a profound effect on many wildlife photographers and conservation supporters since.

Fred Champion retired to Cairnsmore on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park, where his family still live. His photographs were donated to the Natural History Museum in London. Tiger, Tiger celebrates his life’s work with a selection of his images and his original camera equipment.

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