I am excited to announce my solo exhibition of new works on paper at Artereal Gallery, Sydney, December 7 – 22nd. My exhibition, Bully, will feature works that question the human bullying of other animals, yet the word “Bully” is really a euphemism in the context of animal exploitation. “Bully” suggests the sort of bullying that occurs on school grounds, which indeed can be seriously damaging to some children, but this is a far cry from the kind of “damage” that animals incur when they are trapped, caged, or experimented on.
I find myself simultaneously fascinated and frustrated by our contradictory treatment of animals. Our human-centric perspective of the animal world positions rabbits, for example, as both cuddly companion animals but also as, laboratory specimens, meat and fur “products”. We support an industry that raises millions of pets that are accepted members of families yet trap, cage, torture and kill billions of animals annually for food, fur, leather etc. My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.
Whilst my art focuses on animal social justice issues, it is also about oppression in the broader sense - denigrating, suppressing, hurting and exploiting the “other”, both animal and human. This is apparent through the insistent use of anthropomorphism in my work. In the context of my narrative images, anthropomorphism serves as a reminder of both our similarities and differences in behaviour to other animals.
Animal exploitation is analogous with the victimization of many “others” throughout western “culture”. Whilst those “others” eventually were granted emancipation, animals remain captive, enslaved and exploited at the hands of their human oppressors. Our belief in human supremacy has until recently, inhibited us from any serious consideration of the psychological, emotional, intuitive, cognitive and communicative lives of other animals, (with the ironic exception being those companion animals with whom we happily share our homes). Attitudes are now changing with research continually providing evidence that animals are far more sentient, more complex and intelligent than previously believed. Despite this, animal emancipation remains the last big social justice issue, the last frontier for the social incorporation of all “others”.
My favourite work in the exhibition, “Hare-Brain”, was a finalist in this year’s prestigious National Works on Paper Prize, as well as The Redland Art prize. For me this work really communicates the contradictory nature of our relationship to other animals - rabbits as cuddly pets - but also vermin, hunted and used as food.
I have also finally completed a 23 page colour catalogue of recent works (2013 - 2016). This includes text by curator Barbara Dowse and myself.
Bully opens at Artereal Gallery on Wednesday, December 7th, from 6pm.