39 DIGITAL SKETCHES ON THE THEME OF VANISHING WILDLIFE
This is another virtual exhibition, no actual dimensions available, all works 2015. Regrettably, I have no means of making paintings or hardcopy prints at present. I have not concentrated on familiar threatened species, such as tigers, elephants or rhinoceros, because in learning more about the pervasive threat to wilderness I became impressed with the sheer range and obscurity of many specimens. But the work is not really concerned with particular creatures or habitats either. It deals in generic images of vulnerability and fugitive animation, themes shared with earlier work, if in very different realms. Some works have a lighter, more comic tone. Although extinction is no laughing matter, survival, even briefly, strikes me as sometimes needing just that – a more carefree touch.
The creatures’ habitats extend to their pictures. As with preceding work, pictorial style reflects the support or threat to content, an uneasy co-existence. Notes continue at the bottom of the page.
The inspiration for the series arose from two works in the Encryption series (Encry 42 and 43) and I originally envisioned some similar, quite simplified and indeterminate beasts. But just as Encryption opened the door on abstraction for my work, Endangered Species swung back the other way, toward realism and brought just as many unexpected challenges, not least more detailed and complex works that again, beg larger scale as paintings. As with Encryption, it seemed to go with the territory at some point. In both cases it reflects the growing use of Photoshop and with that the danger that the work might be seen as merely careless or inept by commercial standards for the software. Awareness of this technical aspect undoubtedly contributed to some of the more elaborate pictures, as balance against some of the cruder uses of the application. But the work is not about the application, as either failed Photoshop illustration or effective Photoshop graphics. It addresses a wider issue for pictures; that rightly is extended into painting, ideally. The Encryption Paintings at least indicate a little of what Endangered Species paintings might look like.
Source imagery was largely drawn from the web and I suppose there must be some anxiety about theft or plagiarism with unacknowledged sources, following various recent litigation. My hope is that alterations render the source at most non-specific, if not unrecognisable. My sources were not just from the web however. In November I had the opportunity to holiday with my old friend Edward Kraa and his wife Julie in Arakoon, on the north coast of NSW, where they have retired. It was a visit with them to the region in 1983 that inspired the Waldeinsamkeit series and marked a big step in re-engaging with painting for me. Waldeinsamkeit was the last time I had dealt with wilderness landscapes, so it was appropriate (and a little serendipitous) in turning to the theme of endangered species that something of that place was reflected in the new series. Ed’s house abuts a national park and abounds in wild life, quite literally, with roaming wallaby and kangaroo. So I had ample opportunity to experience some protected species directly. He also generously allowed me to draw upon his vast library of digital photography of many specimens and habitats. To this were added my own photographs, there and locally.
Due to private difficulties work on the series did not commence properly until late January and was not completed until early March. There was a lot of reworking and experiment involved and possibly I might have reduced the number exhibited further, but I wanted the series to reflect the range of pictorial issues as much as the range of threatened fauna.
In November – December I returned to the theme with twelve extra works. Initially I wanted to see if I could bring out the camouflage element to settings, following the Camouflage series, but since the animals blend into their settings as a matter of style, it turned out there was not much I could add, apart from stricter choice of colour. So then they became an opportunity to apply some of the techniques I’d learned throughout the year. The danger was that they might become too rote or formulaic in this way and I certainly thought very hard about how to proceed and frankly none of them were ever as good as my dreams. But I suppose that keeps me working.
Spotted Cat 1
Spotted Cat 2
Two of a Kind
Finally, I dedicate the series to the memory of my mother, Ada May Bell 1921 – 2014.