Claude Jones, Bully, 2016, drawing and collage on paper, 15.5 x 15.5 cm
With my solo exhibition at Artereal Gallery coming up in December, I have been busy creating a new series of small works on paper to accompany the larger framed works that will be on display. The exhibition will open on Wednesday 7th of December and run for 3 weeks. The exhibition is called “Bully”, which is a direct reference to our treatment of animals in laboratories, entertainment, and intensive farming but is also appropriate given that the bulldog features heavily in my work this year. Some of the artworks are even called “Bully”, “Bull terror” and “Bulldog grip”.
Of course, I certainly don’t want to demonise Bulldogs of any kind, and how could I when Bulldogs are so loved and popular. ( Bulldogs were the fourth most popular purebreed in the United States in 2015 according to the American Kennel Club.) No, the anthropomorphized bulldogs in my work are, ironically, acting out human behaviour. Why don’t I simply use humans rather than anthropomorphized animals? Well there would be no surprises there! By employing anthropomorphism in my work, I want people to consider both our similarities and differences to other animals. Sure, carnivorous and other omnivorous animals must kill for their food but compare that mode of behaviour with the calculated and often cruel ways in which human-animals exploit, torture and kill other animals. Unlike carnivores, we can make a choice not to treat other animals in this way. Admittedly, we may still need to eat animals in places where food resources are limited but in developed countries, there are numerous food options to select from so why choose cruelty when we can choose compassion?
When we choose not to eat animals we not only reduce teh suffering and killing of animals but we are also choosing to protect the environment. Research shows that a widespread adoption of vegetarian diet would cut food-related emissions by 63% and make people healthier too! There is plenty of research out there to support a vegetarian/vegan diet for environment, health, animals and humans. ( ok definitely vegan is by far the better option than vegetarianism but not many people can become vegan overnight.)
We can also choose to not go to circuses that involve animals, to shun bull fights, cock fights, horse racing, greyhound racing, aquatic “shows”, products tested on animals, products derived from animals.. etc. These are simple decisions that can make a huge difference to the lives of all animals, and the life of our planet.
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, experimented on etc.
The vast majority of children’s book illustrations incorporating animals are infused with the rosy myth that animals are always our friends and we would certainly never hurt them. Our instinctive childhood love of animals is endorsed in such books, movies, stories, toys and domestic pets yet whilst our warm affection for animals is fostered, our taste for animal products is simultaneously cultivated.
Referencing children’s book illustrations, I deliberately employ the use of colourful and decorative elements, yet the subject matter suggests the sinister reality of the animal-human narratives depicted rather than the rose-tinted happy world of most children’s books.
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