'TRUE VALUE' is a collection of large-scale paintings which feature crystal mosaics depicting keystone species. The process involves traditional painting techniques and rigorous mosaic methodologies. Rooted in the historical skills of an ancient art form renowned for depicting animal scenes, the mosaics are reimagined here in a vibrantly contemporary medium, synonymous with high fashion and luxury. Construction and deconstruction, appearance and disappearance, thousands of elements represent the last of the species by depicting singular animals. The works accentuate thematic and technical juxtapositions in order to question the human capacity for greatness and great harm. Isolated in the picture plane, the creatures are elevated to the importance of human portraits. Precious crystal mosaics are undercut by semi-abstract painted backgrounds and Latin graffiti drawing attention to multiple threats including climate change, poaching and habitat loss. The collection simultaneously confronts minute detail and the big picture in order to scrutinize perceptions and preconceptions and explore the opposing concepts of the superficial and the profound.
The first work in this collection is entitled 'SOULLESS: THIS IS NOT A LEOPARD' in a play on the title of a painting by Rene Magritte. It also highlights the threat of the permanent absence of these creatures as opposed to works of art and photographs which can be created at will. This depiction of an Amur Leopard is influenced by Dante’s Divine Comedy where the leopard (di quella fiera a la gaetta pelle) appears as an allegory for self-indulgence. This leopard symbolises the greed of man in the persecution of these creatures. Each sin’s punishment is a contrappeso in Dante’s Inferno and therefore this leopard is depicted with hollowed out eyes representative of starvation of the soul. The spiral in the lower right hand corner represents the nine circles of hell. It also forms both the figure eight (the luckiest number in Chinese culture relating to prosperity, success and high social status) and the symbol of infinity when juxtaposed with the circle of text above. The text in both English and Latin is written in the shape of the number 30 which signifies the approximate numbers of these creatures left in the wild. A further work in the collection is entitled 'THE DARK SIDE', an allegorical painting which is a reminder to be conscious of the world outside of one's immediate environment in these times of narrowing political ideologies. A Giant Panda, the most powerful symbol of species conservation in the world, sits in a small section of bamboo forest as destruction imposed on precious habitats by threats such as logging and climate change occurs all around. The Chinese proverb “Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown” is translated into the dead language of latin to illustrate the warning that mankind doing nothing to save the environment is at his own peril. The painting is separated by a cross into distinct areas of dark and light and contains the following quote by Edward O Wilson "The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.” (Click on images for lightbox. See below for further individual image information).