We have been consuming other animals visually in art and culture for generations. Their faces and bodies are romanticised, cartoonified, and sanitised for our pleasure, used figuratively for everything from decorating our homes and everyday objects, to advertising and marketing all manner of goods, often even the very machinations of their own exploitation. Artists have drawn, painted and sculpted other animals in intricate and intimate detail since humans first created our marks thousands of years ago. They are ever present in our world, yet for most of us only as abstract concepts or two-dimensional representations. Rarely appreciated as being of the world, they are simply the wallpaper of our existence.
It is too easy to assume that creating beautiful and kind images of those we advocate for in the animal rights sphere will engender empathy for them.
As artists for animal liberation we should be wary of just adding more pretty yet meaningless images to a world already so overloaded with art which speaks of the ‘what’ and not the ‘who’. We need to ask ourselves: Are we giving the viewer permission to feast their eyes upon our depiction of the animal with no attachment to or understanding of the individual there? Are we just creating more wallpaper?
Our work does not need to lean into graphic images of violence. To only describe their feelings of fear and suffering ignores the vast array of positive emotions they experience at the other end of the spectrum. Those familiar emotions which are the reason for living for all of us. We need to create work which awakens something deeper in the viewer, work which makes connections between ourselves and the others we share our planet with, whether they be those living free or those forcibly bred into existence for us to exploit.
Much of animal art divests itself of all responsibility towards what it knows as the ‘subject’. Their likeness is, of course, always used without their consent. So the least we can do is render them truthfully, as multi-dimensional beings with rich emotional lives.
I never feel that I have it quite right, this is the reason I am a slow and ponderous creator. I get lost in the nuances. This series of pieces will attempt to examine the challenging concept of tearing down the wallpaper to reveal the truth about the hidden lives beneath.
Wallpaper - PIGLETS
Wallpaper - TURKEYS
Wallpaper - CHICKENS.
Wallpaper - SHEEP