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Barry
Ross
Smith

Works in a Series

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the landing party
beam me down sketch of native birds dressed as Star Trek staff

Are we the Baddies?

The same year the format was expanded for another show called Works on Paper. It included A1 sized sheets of watercolour paper (840 x 590mm) which allowed for a greater scale of work than the limited size of an A6 postcard. 30 artists were each given 2 sheets of A1 Hahnemule watercolour paper to create their works upon. I had the idea of creating a Star Trek landing party bravely beaming down onto a strange new world. The initial sketches depicted native New Zealand birds dressed as the crew of the starship Enterprise (pictured) and I played with various scenario’s of the concept… but nothing would consolidate into a composition I was happy with and I couldn't comprehend why.

 

Then I realized - I had it backwards! The endeavors of the Starship Enterprise, boldly going where no-one has gone before could be interpreted, in the concept that I had devised, as a metaphor for the colonisation of the world by the European empires and the initiation of connections with species that decimated the local inhabitants and habitations. Once the roles of the away team were exchanged for introduced predators and the inhabitants of the undiscovered world became New Zealand’s native birdlife - it all fell into place.

 

The crew of the Starship beaming down to a strange new world became the possum, rat and stoat. These 3 have each done irreparable damage to the biodiversity of our islands and the initial meeting between the away team and the curious natives come to investigate is captured in The Landing Party (below).

I dressed the crew in the same red shirt of the security detail uniform in a forewarning of their future fate (a hopeful prediction of the battle we have yet to win)

 

Our existence relies completely upon the biodiversity of our earth, we live directly from it - it nourishes us with the food that we eat, the air that we breathe and the water we drink. We are of the earth, a part of the biodiversity of all living things; inextricably interconnected. I believe that we are moving to a societal perspective that realises the importance of our biodiversity for our own subsistence, as much as for the lives of the animals we face with extinction - we are the problem which also means that we are the solution and I think we can find the answers.

are we the baddies meme

*Richard Holdaway, 'Extinctions - New Zealand extinctions since human arrival', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/extinctions/page-4 (accessed 23 November 2021)

The Battle Begins

There is a quiet struggle going on in the creeks behind the factories, in the long grass of new suburbs, within the dissection of land for commercial and residential use, it is a battle for survival over increasingly limited resources. A displacement of our native wildlife for agriculture and suburban sprawl and as the world becomes smaller, the need for a home for each of us (animal as well as human) is becoming more intensified. Left unchecked and with enough resources, populations grow to fill a space and if they continue to expand, those resources become depleted, scarce and the lives of the inhabitants come under threat.

 

In 2016 NorthArt Gallery held it’s annual Pocket Edition  - Small Works for large Walls exhibition. They invited 28 artists to variously paint or draw up to 10 artworks each, in oil, acrylic, pastel, pencil, gouache, watercolour or ink, all on the same A6 postcard-sized Hahnemühle paper (105 x 148 mm). The content was completely open to encourage a diverse exhibition within this small structured format.

I had just joined a local community of dedicated people trying to reduce the damage that introduced animals had made on the native fauna and flora, every few weeks going out to our designated track, checking the traps for possum and stoats and rebaiting the stations. I wanted to draw attention to the plight of the native wildlife and the battle they were having for their survival - the first works in this series were imagined armies of anthropomorphic rabbits, rats and possums, as well as native birds - all combatants in a war instigated by our ancestors. I named it the Battlelines series and as the shows continued, the military concept was expanded upon to incorporate cultural aspects of colonialism and the exploration and exploitation of ‘new’ territories utilising different genre; television, movies, portraiture and historical paintings.