Feature: Sarah R Key

The diorama comes alive in Sarah R Key’s intriguing exhibition at Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Sarah R Key’s new interlinked bodies of work A Feeling for Ghosts and Where I End and You Begin are on show at Derby Museum and Gallery. The work takes over two rooms on the top floor of the building, the smaller of which contains taxidermied mammals, birds and insects Sarah has liberated from the museum’s store rooms. This arrangement of stuffed creatures shrouded in plastic and encased within dioramas makes up A Feeling for Ghosts, and it’s this that inspired the paintings in Where I End and You Begin.

The characters depicted within these large-scale acrylic works will be familiar to those who have seen Sarah’s previous works. In Where I End and You Begin, these characters find a temporary new home in the museum’s dioramas, though looking at the paintings, it quickly becomes evident that this new environment is a far cry from the static, stuffy cases which house the taxidermied creatures in the next room. In the paintings, the diorama comes alive- to a backdrop of bold colour, birds multiply and are allowed to fly free, other characters break away from their fixtures and are able to interact with each other. The creatures themselves- who seem to observe us as much as we are observing them- are a sometimes unsettling mixture of animal and human, an indistinction which adds to the dreamlike, surreal nature of the work.

These wonderful paintings invite the viewer to draw their own conclusions about the potential meanings and narratives contained within, and ultimately, they allow the imagination to wander, inviting us to dream.

Sarah’s work is on show at Derby Museum and Art Gallery until October 28th. She will appear at the museum on Thursday September 27th in conversation with David Manley.

To find out more about the artist, visit her website here.