Recently I read an article, by Katrina Strickland, in the Australian Financial Review [AFR] called Artful Creatures In High Demand The article commented upon the popularity of animals in contemporary art. Given that the AFR is a newspaper focusing on economic and financial issues, the weekly Thursday SALEROOM section, in which this article appeared, is geared towards commentary on the art market. Katrina Strickland writes, ' Perhaps animals are a safe sell in tough times;' I suggest Strickland's comment has the ring of truth. Why? Because animals symbolise some kind of security, unconditional love, our connection with something 'real'.
The GFC, and its continuing global and local economic stressors, have left much of society feeling vulnerable, unsure and anxious. Pre GFC economic 'reality' evaporated seemingly overnight when 'houses of cards' fell. Animals seem to provide some kind of safe emotional haven. Please read my 2008 post about 'houses of cards' and the implosion of financial fantasy HERE In this post I suggest that art's catalytic agency is to not just to be reflective, but also affective.When the two are combined there is a potent mix, but does this happen often?
In 2008, after a visit to Melbourne, I wrote a post in which I commented on the popularity of animal imagery. In this post I have postulated that animals provide some kind of security in stressful economic times. The popularity of animals, as well as half human/animal imagery, has continued. It is fascinating to think we may be seeing the reflection of society's emotional needs in the popularity of certain subject matter. But, does it affect change? Does it sedate us into another fantasy of security? Does, it divert our attention? Where's art's agency?
There is a long history of animals in art...from cave paintings to the present day. Animals have been depicted to record food sources, for entertainment. They have been ascribed mystic, sacred and symbolic meanings, and embodied knowledge. They have been depicted to illustrate the wonder of science and the beauty of the natural world. Indeed, they are fellow sentient beings, sharing planet Earth with us. They are important for many reasons. But, are contemporary depictions so 'safe' that they fall prey to caricature, colonising emotional spaces and diverting attention from the 'unsafe' world around us? If so, what are we missing? The answer to that question is both exciting and terrifying?
So, I am working on a new painting that has nothing to do with animals! It is based on my recent small work on paper 'All Of Us' The photo above is a detail shot of the work in progress.
- I have been invited to participate in the 2012 Tattersalls Landscape Art Prize, which will be announced on Wednesday September 5. I shall keep you updated.
- The Mandorla Art Prize is announced this Friday 10 August. My selected entry was sent over to Western Australia last week. Again, I shall keep you updated.
- Also, my entry into the Santos Acquisitive Art Prize in Roma has been selected as a finalist. Entries had to reflect upon the 'benefits of La Nina- the abundance that follows rain'. As regular readers know, rain and water, have been important themes in my work for a long time. The prize is announced 31 August.