Folk Art and Fairy Tales * * * *
at the Cotton Gallery, Midland Arts Centre
Review by Dave Faers
If you are the sort of grown-up who likes to believe there might be fairies at the bottom of your garden, then wave your magic wand - or, better still, a set of car keys or No 45 bus ticket - and head for the bottom of the Mac.
By that I mean the basement-level Cotton Gallery. Down a few steps and it's almost as if you are entering a different world. A world where the detritus of everyday life - wire, paper, recycled toys, bits of leather, fabrics scraps, bird feathers, old books and used tin cans - are converted into tiny creatures.
Theirs is a world not unlike that of The Borrowers, who've just begun a seven-week run in the theatre upstairs, and such is the attention to detail in some of the tiny inhabitants here that, even after two or three visits, you keep discovering new touches that will delight the hearts and excite the imagination.
There are no trad fairies here. The closest thing is Samantha Bryan's impressive line-up of spindly-legged creations, with their hand-sewn leather bodies and slightly blank expressions that nevertheless manage to convey a sense of wit and wonder.
On one stand you can see a small group of these feather-winged fairies learning to fly. On another, a tiny friend with a teensy vacuum cleaner sucking up all the fairy dust. Look closer still and you'll notice a tiny L-plate fluttering from the leg of a trainee fairy and "pass" and "fail" columns on the examiner's clipboard.
Lucy Casson and Julie Arkell's creatures are even quirkier, inhabiting their own parallel words of make-believe. Casson's enchanting tin sculptures are arguably the highlight of the show - and you can spend a good ten minutes admiring the 20 or so tiny upholsters repairing the threadbare, split-cushioned chair that occupies the gallery's centre spot. Arkell's papier mache creatures are more disturbing, combining human and animal elements in a way that is so convincing that you half expect them - want them - to spring to life.