CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Taxidermy: the art of death

PUBLISHED: 13:36 29 March 2016 | UPDATED: 13:36 29 March 2016

see file name

see file name

Rough Old Glass

Taxidermy has long been a collectable - we meet Devon artist Paul Broomfield who has turned the ancient craft into an artform

Animals have been preserved in celebration of their lives for many thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians would mummify and decorate jackals who were associated with Anubis, the god of embalming. A Devon artist is now drawing on this rich history to create new works of art that assault every sense with both boldness and subtlety.

Paul Broomfield lives and works just outside Barnstaple. He is one of a new movement of contemporary taxidermy artists who are taking this age-old practice to new heights, the Financial Times’ ‘how to spend it’ section recently describing it as “pop taxidermy”.

“The history of taxidermy intrigues me. Mummified cats and dogs wrapped in linen and gilded in tribute to their spirits is a powerful message from our ancestors,” says Paul. “As a child I was fascinated by a collection of taxidermy in a small natural history museum in Hampshire where I grew up. One of the most powerful memories is of birds hanging from the ceiling captured in flight.”

Born in the fishing village of Emsworth in 1969, Paul’s interest and fascination with the ocean, nature, taxidermy and curiosities grew from an early age. His grandfather Ted Loader was a noted eel fisherman and naïve painter, and while this helped ignite Paul’s creativity, he classes himself as an ‘outsider artist’ having never had formal training after studying art as a schoolboy.

His work follows the thinking of Marcel Proust, the early 20th century novelist who wrote In search of lost time (À la Recherche du Temps Perdu), which examines the concept of a memory triggered by an object.

Ordinary items are exalted by Paul, partially adorned with real gold and silver, and placed with the care of a meticulous collector to provoke thought and imagination of their symbolic meanings. The Flight of the Soul is perhaps one of Paul Broomfield’s most striking pieces. It features a part-gilded buzzard, mounted with vintage clock face and bottles, with antiqued mirror glass in a bespoke case. Its Proustian inspiration is the stark cry of buzzards soaring over his rural North Devon studio, which stirs both childhood memories and the ancient myth that the souls of children are carried by birds.

While the use of animals can court controversy, the artist stresses that ethics are paramount and he only uses antique taxidermy or creatures that have died naturally and have been properly licensed.

“I’m passionate about our wildlife and the environment,” he said. “I would never harm any creature, and I have made it my mission to re-use as much material as possible.” He feels so strongly about the issue that he has reported abuse by modern taxidermists that he has found online.

“I seek out Victorian and Edwardian taxidermy and other antique objects that I restore to create new art inspired by experiences in life, memories and the beauty of the area where we live. I use ancient techniques like gilding animals and verre églomisé in my work. Using gold and silver to decorate objects dates back thousands of years to the time of Egypt’s pyramids and was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.”

He trained as a cabinet-maker, and took a carving and gilding apprenticeship with David Goodman, the fine art framer and paintings conservator, framing the art of luminaries for the Tate Gallery, the V&A and the National Gallery. Paul worked as a freelance conservator for the National Trust and English Heritage for ten years before moving to France where he spent several years sourcing unusual antique objects at markets that he now uses in his art.

Returning from France in 2007 Paul Broomfield now lives and works in North Devon with his partner Charlotte Hunter, and enjoys surfing, collecting vintage surfboards and fishing in his spare time.

His art is already attracting high profile collectors, and he will be exhibiting in a group show curated by Lee Sharrock, Global PR Director for Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, which takes place at the Lights of Soho Gallery in London between 14 April and 28 May 2016.

His work is also on display at Broomhill Art Hotel at Muddiford in North Devon, and you can find out more about the artist on his website paulbroomfield.co.uk

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Homes & Gardens

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

NATALIE MILLAR-PARTRIDGE relaxes at a family-run Dartmoor retreat where the emphasis is on the glorious environment it sits in

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ex-Chelsea footballer Colin Lee came home to Devon and built an incredible multi-million pound waterside house. CHRISSY HARRIS takes a look around

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Monday, September 17, 2018

Green, renewable sources of energy are becoming more and more popular for domestic use. We talk to Jay-Dee Williams at Energie about thermodynamic solar panels: the fuel efficient, cost-effective way to heat the water in your home

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fig Tree Court is a development of 14 apartments in Tiverton for retired and semi- retired over-55s with gorgeous views over the Grand Western Canal

Read more
Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural energy provider, Calor, gives some top tips for homeowners wanting to make their houses cosy and warm in time for the colder months.

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Converting a crumbling barn into a luxury bolthole takes some doing. Chrissy Harris went to see the results of an ambitious family project | Photos: Rob Coombe

Read more
Friday, August 3, 2018

From a hot tub Land Rover to a Romany caravan, Claire Saul picks out 7 Devon holiday lets that make hot topics for conversation

Read more
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Two former city dwellers have found peace, quiet and a stunning home in an East Devon village. CHRISSY HARRIS went to visit The Old Rectory in Plymtree

Read more
Monday, July 9, 2018

The redevelopment of some rural Devon barns has unearthed a very unique link with our greatest statesman

Read more
Sunday, July 1, 2018

Residential property company heylo recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging its commitment to fair treatment and support to the Armed Forces community, including regulars, reserves, veterans and their families. The signing took place in a ceremony held at Wellington Barracks

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A creative couple with a passion for nature took on a derelict farmhouse in North Devon and used it to inspire their life’s work. CHRISSY HARRIS went to find out more | Photos: Matt Austin

Read more
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The luxury tree top escape is nestled in the grounds of The Fox & Hounds Country Hotel in the North Devon countryside

Read more
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Devon’s iconic Burgh Island, famed for its art deco hotel and links to Agatha Christie, is being sold by owners Deborah Clark and Tony Orchard after almost 17 years.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search