GROWING awareness of the current climate crisis has taken a hold in Hexham in the form of a new art exhibition.

A display, called ‘A Delicate Balance’ at the town’s Robinson-Gay art gallery, is a reflection of concerns about the precarious state of our environment globally and locally.

Included in the exhibition are paintings of life in the tropical rainforest by Dave Pickard, brightly coloured weaving inspired by climate-endangered coral reef from Jill Dexter and paintings by Sheila Smith of the simple beauty in our own gardens.

There’s also plant photography by David Taylor, felted masks of animals and birds by Ann Sheppard, ceramic sculptures by Veronica Bell and Lorraine Clay, and oil paintings inspired by Arctic wildlife from Darren Gallagher.

Sarah Robinson, who owns the gallery, said: “It’s a time when more people are reacting and reflecting on climate change, and there couldn’t be a better time to showcase this work here.

“The artists are part of an existing group from Network Artists North East, with the majority living in the Tynedale area. It’s great for a global issue to be represented by local people in this way.”

Ann Sheppard said: “We have exhibited together as a group before where we all worked towards a theme.

“I have been an environmentalist for a long time and I thought it would be great to see what response we could get from such a broad audience of people.”

Formerly a watercolour painter, Ann transitioned to needle felting and has never looked back.

“In preparation for the exhibition, I was thinking about what animals we are going to lose and what we should be celebrating before they disappear,” she explained.

Animals such as badgers and barn owls as well as lynx, polar bears and Amazonian tree frogs have all been represented through Ann’s handiwork.

She also sought inspiration from a book called Station Eleven, which presents a depiction of the survival of human culture and art in a post-apocalyptic world.

“The exhibition title ‘A Delicate Balance’ represents the differences between pessimism and activism; between beauty and devastation and between fear and celebration,” she added. “At a time when some people still think the climate crisis is somehow not real, we wanted to show how delicately balanced the natural world is, how close to disaster we are.

“At the same time, a story of extinction and crisis is difficult to hear so we wanted to celebrate the beauty and diversity of natural life.

“We have to be aware of just what we will lose if we don’t all take responsibility for it.”

A self-confessed environmentalist, Ann has appeared at climate change protests in Hexham and Newcastle in September.

“I loved how schools from Tynedale were travelling to take part and make their voices heard,” she said.

All of Ann’s work is made with a purpose, and after the exhibition she plans to see her creations fulfil their use.

“I have had a few artists contact me who have said they want to use the masks in performances,” she said. “I really like to see my work used by other people as that is their sole purpose.”

Artist Jill Dexter spent hours weaving designs inspired by coral reefs, and has several exhibits on show at Robinson-Gay.

“I was trying to think of something that is being damaged a lot by climate change, and coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef stood out,” she said.

Jill, who has been weaving since 1989, regularly takes part in the Hexham Abbey exhibition in July.

“All of my work is very much focused on the different colours and textures in places all around the world.

“The designs I have made are based off pictures of coral I have found online.

“Weaving is a very linear activity, so I had to push myself a lot to make these particular designs work out.”

On a recent holiday in Greece, Jill continuously took photos of sea life and nature for inspiration for future projects.

“I am aware of climate change and now try to have an ecological way of life,” she added.

Dave Pickard has created artwork focusing on endangered species, ranging from exotic jungle animals to ones nearer home.

“I have always been interested in wildlife and like this exhibition’s idea of the environment,” he said.

“As far as the environment is concerned I’m pessimistic about the future. Since finishing the pictures the media has concentrated on the burning of the world’s rainforests. Ice caps and glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate, and scientists have announced that there are three billion less birds in the USA than there were three decades ago.”

The exhibition will run until Saturday, October 26.