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Edwyn Collins: British Birdlife

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN EXHIBITION of drawings entitled Edwyn Collins: British Birdlife will be on display at the Smithfield Gallery from October 21 to November 1, 2008.

Collins’ legendary music history as one of the UK’s most respected singer song- writers, runs from his early years as the founder of Glasgow’s acclaimed indie rock outfit Orange Juice in the late 1970s and early 1980s, to a long-standing solo career which continues into the present day. His most recent release was the solo album Home Again on Heavenly Recordings.

However, Collins’ creative output has not been confined to music. The son of an art lecturer, Collins began sketching at school and later trained to be a draftsman. From the outset one theme demanded his attention – British wildlife.

Whilst building his musical career, Collins harboured a private dream to revise and update the prints of Archibald Thorburn in Lord Lilford’s Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Isles, which was first published in the 1880s. The detailed draughtsmanship of each coloured plate fascinated Collins and encouraged him to replicate these images with outstanding precision. However, bird illustration soon became incompatible with the life of a successful pop star and the hobby wained.

Having suffered a life threatening brain haemorrhage in February 2005, Collins’ life was put on temporary hold. Affecting his main motor skills, speech and walking, the priorities of survival dominated the next period of his life. However, it was during the process of rehabilitation, and gradually regaining his abilities, that Collins again re-found his love of illustration.

Whilst speech, playing music and mobility were taking their time to recover, Collins focused his attentions on art. Re-learning to draw with his left hand, he has drawn one bird, studiously, every day since October 2005. Each is titled and dated, and maps this extraordinary process of recovery via art.

This October, for the very first time, Collins’ drawings will be exhibited in a London gallery, detailing a diary of recovery and an impassioned rediscovery of a love of illustrated bird life.

The Smithfield Gallery, 16 West Smithfield, London, EC1A 9HY.

Tel: 020 7489 7550