Through a tiger's eye

17th March 2000 at 00:00
Wild Tigers of Bandhavgarh, Burrell Collection, Glasgow, March 17-November 19

Visit the Wild Tigers exhibition at the Burrell, Glasgow, and you could win one of your own. But don't worry - you won't have to invite it to tea, as Deedee Cuddihy reports

A warning to teachers: If you let your class take a collection box back from the Wild Tigers of Bandhavgarh (pronounced "bandagar") exhibition which has just opened at the Burrell in Glasgow, your school could end up "winning" a real live tiger.

Fortunately, that's not as bad as it sounds, because the tiger in question will be looked after at London Zoo and the lucky school will simply win the privilege of becoming its adoptive parents.

The Tigers show is a celebration of these handsome creatures and highlights the fact that, in the Wild Tigers of Bandhavgarh Burrell Collection, Glasgow March 17-November 19wild, they're on the verge of extinction. But while the tiger's greatest enemy is humankind, this exhibition demonstrates some of the more creative ways they are caught by artists.

The exhibition is a partnership between Glasgow City Council and the Artist for Nature Foundation which uses art to draw attention to the need for conservation. For this show, 15 experienced artists from 10 different countries - including three based in Scotland - travelled to the wild tiger reserve at Bandhavgarh National Park in Central India. They lived there for two weeks in 1997 and each produced a fine collection of work. So in among big, superstar tigers by Swedish painter Lars Jonsson and delicate watercolours and pencil sketches of straw huts, elephants bathing and local markets by French artist Denis Clavereul, are a couple of massive 7ft x 5 ft oils of tigers by Peter Howson, watercolour sketches of snakeskins and butterflies by Victoria Crowe, and pencil sketches of Langurs monkeys by John Busby.

The artists' styles are remarkably diverse, with techniques that range from pastel and pencil sketching, to mono and screen printing and sculpting. And while most of the works on show are life-like and highly detailed, they are not simply illustrations. These artists were clearly inspired and even the most blase child will be impressed by the display.

But this exhibtion is not just about fine art. Its message is that tigers in the wild are heading for extinction within the next 100 years, unless more conservation projects, such as the one in Bandhavgarh, are set up.

At the outer entrance to the show, visitors are introduced to the charity 21st Century Tiger, and asked to help by putting a donation in the special tiger appeal box or taking away a miniature replica box which can be decorated, filled and returned to the Burrell, whereupon it will become eligible for that tiger-winning prize draw.

At the beginning of the show a beautiful stuffed tiger (raised in a zoo, where it died of natural causes) is frozen in mid-leap and an atmospheric tape of wildlife noises recorded at Bandhavgarh plays in the background, as you read a brief account of the tiger reserve and Sita, one of its best-known residents.

She is thought to have died of old age but a number of the artists in this show were lucky enough to have observed and sketched her during their visit.

In the middle of the gallery is a large information area including What is a Tiger?, an interactive section with flaps to open and buttons to press; Tigers in Peril, a display of information panels; and the Tiger's World, a collection of stuffed animals that might be found in Bandhavgarh - a bear, a deer, peacocks and other colourful birds.

A 10-minute film of wild tigers in action at the reserve runs on a continuous loop.

Anne Wallace, the new education officer for Glasgow Museums, has drawn up an extensive activities programme including schools' workshops which run during April, May and June and may be repeated in the autumn.

For the P4-P7s, there is mixed media mask making, using all sorts of animals for inspiration, while the P5-S2s concentrate on screen printing, with the fashionable textile animal skin prints as a starting point.

But school parties don't have to book the pound;20 workshops, says Wallace. She's commissioned two sets of activity sheets, one concentrating on the show itself, the other taking in the rest of the Burrell with a search for other animals featured on objects in the collection.

Schools should book their visit by ringing education assistant Ann Wynne on 0141 287 2747

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