My collection of drawings in this first of the two ‘Birdland’ exhibitions focuses on two bird species. One is the Wood Duck inspired by the taxidermied specimen in the Mt Victoria Museum collection & the second is the Magpie, a favourite of mine to be found in abundance around the Blue Mountains including the Museum carpark. I regularly leave my pictures untitled with the hope that viewers can more easily engage their imagination & response. However I do leave a brief description of the picture in the catalogue for the purposes of anecdotal information & image identification.
The collection of pictures are drawings, mostly mixed media using charcoal, chalk pastels & ink. I enjoy working with these media as they allow for spontaneity & freshess in my response to the subject matter. Drawing for me is a kind of way of being, communicating with my surroundings & with myself. It is a kind of metaphorical currency of joy with which I can make transactions with life. My drawings are not a scientific response but a modernist record of my converstation with my subject, in particular their ‘aliveness’. For me being alive involves more than having height & width. It also involves having weight, gesture/movement, thoughts, emotions, energy, behaviours, agency & personality. Connecting to this, the drawing processes I use, employ a range of ways of seeing/perceiving. Some of these processes use my eyes & analytical left brain, & some engage my other sensory mechanisms including a whole body intelligence/way of perceiving. This approach in my work was initially influenced by the thinking of an artist/teacher Kimon Nicolaides who worked in New York earlier last century & since then my experience with yoga practise has also informed my approach. A list of other influencing creatives including artists & writers would be long but high up on that list, not because my work looks like theirs, but because of their love of nature, life & presence are the work of the Sumi-E painters dating back to the C14th & poet Mary Oliver.
How does working with taxidermied specimens fit in with exploring the aliveness of my subject matter? My process does involve spending time around the breathing, moving creatures. This allows for connection with their wider range of characteristics. When I end up working with a taxidermied specimen or with photographs, I use them as a tool to remind me of the experience of being with the creature that is still biologically ticking. I am though very taken with contemporary subatomic physics research & commentary. It has informed me that really everything is alive, is energy, & is in motion, even when to my unaided human eye it appears to be without vital signs. I really enjoy this conversation.
While I have explored in the images the birds’ presence & my fondness for them, without actually being represented, I am present in the images too. Through the compositional choices I have made and with the orchestration of poses, the playing with scale, tonal range & mark-making, I hope to tell a story. Small hints around this story are that there are two birds in most, that the birds are slightly larger than life…