Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Review: Vanishing Species Exhibition

20 May, 2016 - 16:29 -- World Land Trust
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Prophecy Orangutan Bethan McFadden
Bethan McFadden with Gorilla mask sculpture

World Land Trust (WLT) visited Bethan McFadden’s Vanishing Species art exhibition in the Crypt Art Gallery and interviewed the artist about her artistic process, inspiration and the reasons behind her support of WLT.

A crypt may not seem like an obvious choice for holding an art exhibition filled with emotive animal portraits. However, the cold air and long shadows underneath the former Mariners Church frame the artwork in a melancholy appropriate for emphasizing the plight of these animals in their declining habitats.

Bethan McFadden is donating a quarter of the money raised from the exhibition to WLT. She had been intending to use her artistic talent to raise money for an animal charity and chose to focus on conservation because it encompasses not just the individuals depicted in her artwork, but the whole ecosystem and local communities.

When the opportunity to show the pieces at the Crypt Art Gallery arose, the ominous setting was ideal for the endangered species her work had begun to focus on, which had begun with a recurring dream about mammoths.

Bethan described her process to WLT:

“What I normally do is start from one specific feature, like the wrinkly eye of a rhinoceros, so I’ll start drawing that and as I carry on I’ll start extending the lines, creating new forms until it becomes a different being. The first thing I did for this exhibition was the elephant trunk as I’ve had the idea for years that I’ve wanted to draw a massive trunk on a really long scroll of paper; it started with me getting several dreams about hairy mammoths.”

Some of the work focuses on one element of the animal, such as the trunk of an elephant or the face of a primate, but there are also life-size representations of animals such as the polar bear and ostrich.

Sloth Sculpture Bethan McFadden

“There are elements of that slightly ethereal surrealism in some of the pieces here but most of them look more like the animal’s true form because I wanted to make it a bit more accessible for this exhibition to raise awareness and money. I wanted people to see the animals as the sentient beings that they really are.”

25 per cent of sales from the exhibition are going towards the Atlantic Forest project in Brazil. Bethan’s own travels have taken her across South America to Peru, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. In the latter she was the Artist in Residence for the Communidad Inti Wara Yassi wild animal refuge. She was also fortunate enough to see wild condors in Peru, which inspired the condor shown in the exhibition.

One of the more provocative pieces is suspended from the ceiling of one of the stone chambers, a sculpture of a sloth cast in a glaring light focussed on the skull which casts a shadow into the room behind. Bethan explains that there were some emotional responses from the public, but the grave setting was important for the message of this exhibition.

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