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I find myself caught up again in the dilemma of making artefacts for which we praise or disparage ourselves, and nature, nearing crisis point and more important than ever. How can an artist contribute to nature – this has been an age-old dilemma. I found that actually being inside the place one wanted to draw was best. A photographer could not avoid this. In the same way, it is better to meet an animal in person, than via second hand imagery. I had found that while animals evolved from the Renaissance paintings I had drawn from, they became schematized, in that they replaced figures, and had to be positioned in a certain way.
There was a concord in the artists I stumbled upon (stumbling and wandering can lead to new encounters that seem apposite). John Simpson’s monotypes of animals and humans broach nature, remote and unexplained, which is paralleled with mythology. Humans and animals combine, in some images one ghosting the other, and each animal’s character and being is acknowledged in enigmatic drawings. Life ebbs and flows through the protagonists’ coats and limbs, and everywhere is movement.
As if in repost to this natural animation, next appeared Polly Morgan, an artist who utilizes taxidermy in her sculptures of animals, which she positions at unexpected junctures, of chandeliers and champagne glasses. She made a lithograph, an intricate, bright drawing of lovebirds feeding on a human heart. The decorative image leads one in unaware; the heart could be mistaken for part of a tree at first glance. Her sculptures brought to mind those dead Hollywood stars digitally resurrected in TV commercials, doing things that they never did, and saying things that they never said. But I suppose Dr Death’s plastination is a closer call. To me, there is something deeply disrespectful in this appropriation of another’s life. Be it animal, or human. But that is just my own personal response.
I looked again at Franz Marc’s lithographs and woodcuts of animals. If the Expressionists were just expressing their own feelings with colour and shape, what of the subject matter? Were his rhythmic, bending blue horses (1911) just a projection of the artist’s raw emotion? What would the animals say, and would he have listened. He does achieve a wholeness amongst the variant forms, and the combination of intense colour and abstraction of animal within its environs, seems to focalize its spirit.
I have moved out of my studio and had a cull of old paintings, which was a good thing. Like saying goodbye to a rather silly wound one had been carrying around for years. Tearing through and out of old canvas, a very good piece, a natural act. The combination of cutting and carrying sprained my hand, which is swollen and curiously painful. But this will pass in its own time.