Oil On Canvas. H68 x W62 cm
This work addresses the plight of the threatened African elephant. This painting depicts a stuffed and mounted juvenile African Elephant (Loxodonta Elephantidae) on a wall surrounded by a wallpaper of ‘honesty’ (Lunaria annua). This is a preposterous image. After all, who would shoot a baby elephant and then, have it resurrected by a taxidermist. The seeds in the Honesty pods have the appearance of small ghost-like Edvard Munchian faces. They are at once witnesses to the inhumane treatment of this beautiful creature as well as detailing various emotions ranging from disdain, shock and horror.
“In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is the end of days. It’s the apocalyptic moment when the entire cosmos, including the gods, will be destroyed.” Its meaning in Old Norse couldn’t be more apt in homo sapiens confronting our own imminent potential for self destruction.
The striking organic patination of the Burchell’s Zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) is mesmerizing. The camouflage potential of the unique pattern on each individual enables offspring to identify parents immediately after birth. In this image the dark striped pattern is painted without the alternating off-white colouring, creating a transparent effect which forcefully blends the animal into its landscape; it is literally dissolving into shared matter. The organic (natural) is juxtaposed with the geometric (man-made) zebra crossing device which forces an unmistakable reading of deep perspectival illusionistic space.
The setting is the Salt Pan at the Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana. The trees are the Baines Baobabs, a well known landmark named after the explorer/ artist Thomas Baines. The baobab is revered in Africa and Madagascar as a sacred and mystical tree. Baobabs can live for more than a thousand years and are perhaps among the oldest living things on the planet.
The San or “African bushman ha[ve’] a legend that tells of the god Thora. He took a dislike to the Baobab (Adansonia digitata) growing in his garden, so he threw it out over the wall of Paradise on to Earth below, and although the tree landed upside-down it continued to grow.”
Botswana is the last major refuge of the San people – The First Nations people of Central and Southern Africa. They had inhabited much of Southern Africa for approximately 100,000 years, as is indicated by the ubiquitous rock art, middens and other evidence of habitation throughout the region. Being hunter gatherers the San were targeted for annihilation after the permanent white settlement in 1652, as well as by their traditional enemies the Khoi Khoi and the Nguni peoples. They represented a threat to an expanding appetite for land and the exploitation of the resource rich sub-continent.
Mounted astride the Zebra is ‘Our Father’, a somewhat imperious boy, an imp simplified in outline only – a spectral presence, representing the monotheistic source of our male dominated world. William Wordsworth’s idiom The Child Is The Father Of The Man (from My Heart Leaps Up – 1802) is a prescient observation on the puerile source of our current predicament. The title suggests that his domain over the world is shortly to be curtailed – hence the waning gibbous moon.
I have deployed symbols; the San (the earliest inhabitants) and the Baobab (The oldest living flora), as being representative of all that is under threat – and caught in the middle is the wildlife.
Oil on canvas. H94 x W122 cm
Painting Inspired by Ilya Ehrenburg’s salient 1929 book “The life of the Automobile”. This understated masterpiece of writing is as relevant today as when it was conceived almost 100 years ago.
Pot hole dodging on Australian roads during the protracted La Niña is a game akin to dicing with death. An informal public response to this proliferation of road deterioration is to demarcate potholes with a (police-like) murder scene outline in white paint on the black bitumen surface. Here, as a sop to video artist Shaun Gladwell, the symbolic fatality is a skateboarder depicted in receding perspective.
The central figure is surrounded by a car tyre surmounted with Buffalo horns. This is a reference to Bull Bars often attached to the front of rural vehicles by drivers – to literally fend-off the danger to themselves of fatal accidents when wild animals are hit whilst travelling.
Colliding with and killing wildlife on Australian rural roads is a commonplace occurrence. Observing or causing roadkill is part of the Australian country way of life. It is often joked about and even celebrated by ‘truckies’ (large truck drivers) who often adorn the outside of their driving doors with painted symbols of their score of kills – hence the patterned wallpaper of kangaroos, echidnas and wedge tailed eagles – (Eagles are generally only hit when they are feeding off prior killed animals themselves). Notching-up kills was common practice particularly during WWII, when pilots of both sides attached painted decals of their adversaries just below their cockpits denoting the number of enemy planes shot down – which tallied-up towards them being designated as aces and treated as heroes.
Truck drivers, particularly in remote areas, often boast about going out of their way to kill animals on our roads.
There is nothing to celebrate in deliberately murdering fauna.
ps. In Broken Hill NSW there is such a proliferation of roadkill (usually caused every night by large trucks) that the City Council employs someone to pick up and clear the roads daily. If left to rot, the bodies strewn across the roads are perceived to cause distress to tourists – who are bussed-in to experience the City of The Arts from all across the country. The carcasses of the roadkill are then unceremoniously dumped in the ‘meathole’ at the City Tip.