For her first solo exhibition with Vane, Alison Unsworth presents new work created during the last six months – developed from found objects, such as souvenirs, ornaments, rocks and photographs – that displays her longstanding fascination with the built environment and increasingly in the wildlife and in particular the birdlife within it.

Inspired by discussions on the relationship between walking, looking and thinking in philosopher, poet and novelist Raymond Tallis’ book, Reflections of a Metaphysical Flaneur, her drawings present things seen on walks in urban places. As travel writer Robert McFarlane writes in The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, ‘Soren Kierkegaard [Danish philosopher and theologian] speculated that the mind might function optimally at the pedestrian pace of three miles per hour’. Unsworth’s work dwells on the details of landscape missed by the modern-day car or train traveller racing by seeing only a passing blur. She poses the question: can we rid ourselves of the mental baggage of our busy lives and ‘look for its own sake’, noticing what is around us?

In her digital prints with watercolour added by hand, objects and creatures are isolated from their context and presented as items for consideration or examination: a freshly dug lump of asphalt becomes a readymade plinth for an urban blackbird or starling and a seagull perched on a lamp post, reflecting its orange glow, becomes an alternative public sculpture. The bird images, presented as if posed, in profile, and meticulously drawn and coloured, are reminiscent of Victorian taxidermied exhibits in a museum.

Unsworth has created a series of small sculptures from domestic ornaments of the kind produced as souvenirs. These ornaments often depict idealised rustic dwellings, dream homes in the country with quaint thatched roofs. Unsworth ‘demolishes’ the houses themselves, razing them to the ground leaving only the bases of the ornaments. Then, using model-makers’ materials, she uses each base to create a new scene: in one, the vacant site is commemorated by a memorial plaque; in another, a builder’s skip appears to contain the last remnants of the demolished house; images of continual demolition and rebuilding.

In the photographic work, The way home after feeding the birds, each of the two images is centred on a solitary figure, head bent, apparently engrossed in thought, seemingly oblivious to the landscape they walk through; the different textures, colours and patterns of rock, gravel, tarmac, brick and water.

The exhibition also includes Unsworth’s digital video, Promenade, depicting a moving panorama of the South Shields promenade and Sandhaven beach on the North East coast. Hundreds of line drawings made from postcards, holiday snaps and archive photographs were joined to form a continuous landscape. The visual journey of Promenade takes the viewer past areas of built landscape – car parks, cafés and construction sites – as well as beach and seascapes with sand dunes, crashing waves, seabirds and sunbathers. The moving tableau passes at an ambling, walking pace, allowing the time to fully experience the rich diversity of the ever-changing coastal scene that Kierkegaard would have approved of.

Read Daniel Koczy’s essay Things to think (again) with