Les Animaux (The Animals) is a series of gouache paintings on Arches watercolour paper. These works explore the effects of climate change upon animals who depend on extreme climates of hot or cold for survival. Polar bears are well-documented as being some of the first animals to be adversely affected by melting polar caps. Watching footage of these wondrous beings struggling to swim the ever-widening gaps between areas of solid ice is heart-wrenching.
Referencing storybook imagery and mythology, these paintings reflect the ultimate quest: that of nothing less than finding simple sustenance provided by an eco-system in balance, e.g: drinking water for giraffes in the desert; edible wild grasses for Prairie Elk; snow in the wintertime for Musk Oxen.
Creating these paintings became, for me, an act of prayer for the survival of our many animal friends. It is one thing for Homo Sapiens to make the Earth uninhabitable for our own species; and quite another to bring other species down with us.
Baby Bear Dreaming
Bluebird of Happiness
Snow de Beests
A desire to create eco-neutral artwork sparked the initial motivation for this body of work.
In exploring how recycling might be applied to the art-making process, I began collecting discarded objects from tips, mechanics’ dumpsters, footpaths, op shops and garage sales. These were combined with wire, glue, thumbtacks, old light bulbs, cherished scraps of fabric, birthday candles, and pencils collected since childhood.
A sense of playfulness with the found objects brought to life a cast of characters who seem defiantly vivacious, despite their having been constructed from detritus.
The gathering of flotsam and jetsam together to form a whole ‘person’ became a sort of metaphor about how humans absorb and patch together the various events that occur along their journey from birth to death.
As each character evolved, so too did their life’s story – each ‘personality’ evolved in response to how they’d dealt with the joys and triumphs of life, as well as the slings and arrows.
Some characters seem to be smiling in the face of tragedy, having picked themselves up and dusted themselves off. Others seems to have succumbed to grief and sorrow, or are embroiled in red hot anger. A few seem naive or alienated – life’s little lost lambs. The lucky ones are floating high on a cloud of romance, temporarily suspended above the Earthly trials and tribulations that have caused others to crack.
Mister Gorgeous and Miss Beautiful
The Aliens – white
The Aliens – black
Juvenile Sabertooth Unicorn
Mildly Ferocious Lion
The operating table
Lost & Found
Created whilst living in NYC, this body of work looks at themes of community and belonging versus lonesomeness and lostness. Having left my beloved friends in warm-hearted country town Australia for life in a railroad apartment in Manhattan’s crowded Lower East Side, I experienced a growing sense of isolation and alienation. The Lower East Side had a history of being populated by waves of different immigrant groups – first Jews escaping persecution, then the Chinese, and at the time I was living there on the eve of 9/11, the strong Hispanic community was beginning to be dispersed due to a steady expansion of hipster bars and rising rents that only whities could afford.
Development saw the faded but still glorious old tenements, with their peeling paint whispering family histories, being demolished to pave way for soulless apartment blocks. I remember looking out my window one hot summer’s night to the sidewalk below and seeing piles of house contents being ejected form one such old home. The city’s poor and children alike were rooting through, looking for salvageable and/or saleable things. I rushed down to join the throng, pulling out lovely old goods like sewing kits from the nineteen-forties, menorah parts from what must have been the home of a Rabbi, broken bits from toys, speaker wires, old erasers, and suchlike – a veritable treasure trove for a found object sculptor.
In the city, with its ravishing appetite for consumerism and expansion, it never failed to surprise me: how could so many people co-exist so closely together, yet so many of its inhabitants feel so lonesome? And how did this relate to the flagrant divide between the wealthy and the poor?
One of the most poignant moments for me whilst living in my beloved Lower East Side was seeing an elderly Chinese man searching through a pile of rubbish. It broke a little piece off my heart, as I snapped my bourgeois camera to record the sight.
Sire Jellyfish Jude
The other day in my front garden, a tiny little fluffy Rainbow Lorikeet feather floated down out of the morning sunshine and landed upon my foot. It was one of those soft, soft downy feathers from a bird's underbelly... the part that fluffs and sways in the tiniest of breezes.
As I picked the feather up and took a closer look at all the delicate silk-like strands, I got to marvelling at how this one little feather was an integral part of the beauty and delight that is the world of birds. How lucky we are to have them grace our skies with their songs and airborne dances!
But are we treasuring them enough? Will these beautiful and sensitive creatures be able to survive the kinds of environmental catastrophes that result from human industry?
Lost Forest II
Lost Forest II (detail)
Lost Forest III
Strawberry Fields Forever
Heliotrope Fresh Air Hunt
Do What You Love
Fairywrenland (top of diptych)
Fairywrenland (bottom of diptych)
In The Realm of Sleep
Family Tree (detail)
Canary in a Coalmine
It’s such a blessing awakening to beautiful birdsong in the morning and later watching birds float, soar, swoop, sing and streak colour through the skies above.
It is with a heavy heart that I first learned how many bird now headline threatened species and extinction lists. The gossamer threads which currently enable birds to survive in increasingly human-modified habitat may not be able to withstand for too long the scarcity of traditional food sources and the prevalence of feral cats, amongst other threats.
As wild spaces continue to shrink, a great number of birds have become the proverbial canary in a coal mine – their decline a kind of warning bell and possible precursor to the greater collapse of Earth’s life support systems.
As well as the pleasure and joy birds and birdsong give us, they of course play a very important role in the broader scheme of things. For example, spreading seeds, controlling insect populations and pollinating flowers.
These collages of birds in all their gorgeous, fluffy, fluttery featheriness were created in the hope of inspiring folks to help protect the remaining wild spaces in nature where birds (and other animals and plants) can thrive. It would be a tragedy for the world to lose any more of its gorgeous flying jewels.
Good Luck All Around
Fluff, Feather and Flutter
Where the Bee Sucks
Bush Turkey Queen
Portrait of Guido Valdez: Homage to Louise Weaver I
Portrait of Guido Valdez: Homage to Louise Weaver II
Change in the Weather
Drawn in white ink on painted wooden panels, these works are stream-of-consciousness doodles. Whatever happened to come out of my hand is what appeared. Sometimes romantic, sometimes political, mostly comical... kind of like life, really.
See if you can spot the...
• Josephine Baker look-a-like • Pecan stall at the farmers market • Wooden work horses mating • Whip made of gum leaves • Yoga sequence • Nudies at the waterfall • Ghostly cephalopods