An Endling named Benjamin

April 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

An endling is the last living individual animal of a species.

Human activity has caused many animal extinctions, and all we have left of these lost species are skeletons and broken up DNA. Today, however, scientists are discussing the moral and logistical reasons for resurrecting extinct species by using DNA information from museum specimens and advancements in genomic technology. This has inspired a range of visceral reactions, such as adult horror and childlike wonder. Animal resurrection is a unique and contemporary question we are facing- humans, the most intelligent species on earth, have the hard-earned power to make right what we have done wrong, and we are considering it now because we can feel regret and honour in our hearts.

When I was in Paris last summer, I visited the Museum of Evolution and saw a small exhibit about fluorite crystals. Fluorite crystals come in a wide range of colours, but when exposed to light they all gradually succumb to the UV radiation and turn clear, losing their bright colour. When an organism dies, one of the first things to disappear is also its colour, although colour pattern might still be preserved. It made me think of crystals living secret pure lives in hidden and fragile colours.

Around this time, I was reading a book by Linda Kalof, called “Looking at Animals in Human History”, which details a repetitive story of humans interpreting animals by anthropomorphizing them and using them as creatures of information rather than communication. When animals are exposed to humans, they gradually lose their ephemeral essence and way of life. I saw colourless crystal structures as a metaphor for our museum of skeletons and fragmented DNA- a basic blueprint of form but emptied of life.

In my new series, I grow crystals on a mirror and subsequently paint a thin portrait of an endling in greyscale. Although the animal is without colour, the viewer infuses his her own in the reflection of the mirror, breathing artificial life to the endling. The viewer can choose to focus vision on the animal itself, or on him or herself. You can see yourself in the mirror in the eyes of the endling, or you can look at the animal as its own being. This is Benjamin:

One of the candidates for de-extinction is the thylacine, a marsupial carnivore native to Tasmania. After occurrences of sheep attacks on the first European settlements, the Van Diemen’s Land Company and later the Tasmanian Government offered bounties for their bodies from mid to late 1800s. By 1933, the endling of the thylacine species was captured and brought to Hobart Zoo. His name was Benjamin and he lived for three years in a small fenced enclosure. On September 7th, 1936, locked out of his sheltered sleeping enclosure and unable to survive the extreme temperatures of the heat of day and cold of night, he unceremoniously died of neglect.


New year, new things

January 22nd, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Dear all! I disappeared for a bit because I have been working on a new series! I have been on a quest searching for the right medium to express the heartbreaking beauty of a new theme, de-extinction.

Perhaps we all first heard this story of man’s hubris from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film, “Jurassic Park”, based on a novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. Today, the achievability of resurrecting species with modern genomic technology is real. In March 2013, Revive and Restore, an organization dedicated to coordinating genomic technology for conservation, hosted a conference with National Geographic and TedX. Biologists, ethicists and conservationists discussed the moral and logistical reasons for bringing back extinct species by using DNA synthesis in conjunction with authentic DNA information from museum specimens. The prime candidates are recently extinct species and ones that humans have specifically driven to extinction, such as the thylacine or the passenger pigeon. This has inspired a range of visceral reactions, such as adult horror and childlike wonder. Animal resurrection is a unique and contemporary question we are facing- humans, the most intelligent species on earth, have the hard-earned power to make right what we have done wrong, and we are considering it now because in our hearts we can feel regret and honour.

Chinese river dolphin in progress

I will post real pictures  of the series soon, but as you can see I am painting on mirror! Oh mirrors. (… I’m trying to segue into this next thing:) I just received in the mail Simon Lewis’s, Observances, a collection of evocative reflections weaved into romantic sentences by the artist. Please find one below:

“Mirrors: when we hunt reality and hang its skin upon our walls. ” – Simon Lewis


For Life

March 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Oil study on gold and silver leaf

This is a fennec fox.

They mate for life!



September 27th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Play is a seemingly innocent activity, compulsive to high functioning and social mammals. Engaging in play allows an existing social hierarchy to be briefly ignored, as the participants self-handicap and control themselves from inflicting real harm. Even so, play also prepares animals for that very adult ranking competition in the future. As they stalk and wrestle, they tone their motor skills for battle with their own and other species.

This impulse is an amazing social activity and a traditional piece of our behavioural repertoire. Evolution has formed this mandatory urge that prompts us to communicate, train the body, and to restrain. In a system of life that is cruel and unforgiving, it is also knowing and preparing us for something greater. It is an elegant and divine part of our mammal culture.

The foxes are glowing with gold as they participate in our common ritual. The use of gold is a reference to a medieval belief, when animals were understood as fellow sentient beings that had a connection with a great designer.


Play play

August 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Sneak peek! In progress detail of one of my new paintings.


The Next Generation

June 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Hello Jello!

577 Mount Pleasant Road, between Eglinton and Davisville

This Thursday (June 14) is the opening night of a group show I am participating in at Canadian Fine Arts Gallery (577 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto, Ontario, M4S 2M5). Yayy!!! The exhibition is called “The Next Generation”, and you can find the image above published on the first page of Slate Art Gallery Guide.

Hope you can make it! Gold eyed fox will be there! The show will be up until June 24.


What’s up?

April 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Hi hello! I wanted to post a little update on what I’ve been up to!

in progress!

I’ve been focusing on doing some research about animarllzzz (“Moral Lives of Animals” by Dale Peterson , “The Marvels of Animal Behaviour” by John Mcloughlin, BBC’s documentaries “Frozen Planet” and “Human Planet” and readings and visits about medieval art). I have also been busy experimenting with gold in combination with oil painting. Above is documentation of my progress, that is the third coat. I am looking forward to the depth and life that will be achieved after many more layers, like this copy I did in the Louvre:

"L'Enlevement de Psyche" by Pierre-Paul Prud'Hon copy from the Louvre

And so I have been busy making paint and mediums for a new body of work with recipes I learned when I studied abroad!

making medium and emulsion

I also participated in Take pART at Arta Gallery in the Distillery District last week and submitted a little oil on wooden panel of a princess parrot, an elusive birdie from Australia named in honour of Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

I’m very excited for the new body of work, stay tuned for details on where they will be showing! Thank-you for taking the time to visit my bloggie. I’ll have more stuff soooooooon!