Lepidopterology (from Ancient Greek λεπίδος (scale) and πτερόν (wing); and -λογία -logia.), is a branch of entomology concerning the scientific study of moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies. Someone who studies in this field is a lepidopterist or, archaically, an aurelian.
My recent purchase of an actinic light trap to attract night-flying moths [those captured are unharmed and fly off the following evening] presented to me an alluring aspect of nature to which, until recently, I had only paid casual attention. It offered a striking opportunity to visualise two different preoccupations simultaneously.
1 The nature of obsession
noun: obsession fixation, ruling/consuming passion, passion, mania, idée fixe, compulsion. I have recently embarked upon a series of watercolours which reflect the development of and total immersion in one’s personal preoccupations. A visual encapsulation on the nature of obsession to the exclusion of all other interests and responsibilities; pushed to the point where the subject and the self merge. The degree of assimilation varies from composition to composition, from almost full portrait, -to just a partially occluded eye within the object of desire.. pulled deeper into the fabric of the idée fixe.
2 Hiding within Plain View
noun: the ability of an organism to conceal itself especially from a predator by having a colour,
pattern, and shape that allows it to blend into the surrounding environment
Though 2019 marks the 70th anniversary year of the publication of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, it’s central concept remains, ominously, as relevant as ever. How is the artist/ dissident to express unpalatable truths and criticisms of contemporary society and the state apparatus whilst still being able to function as one of its citizens; free from official persecution? When I first read this masterwork as a teenager, it did seem as if western society at least, had insured itself against the risks underlined through its pages. Now it seems that perverse humanity has collectively snatched defeat from the jaws of what was perhaps in retrospect a mirage of victory. My own body of work since the turn of the century has alluded to different facets of the struggle for the individual’s voice to be heard within an unsympathetic kultur.
This series of moth paintings is an attempt to find an imagery which might encapsulate these related concepts. To marry ideas of surreptitious discourse with techniques of crypsis. Employing this mechanism, the dissident may give voice to his or her ideas publicly, rather than merely in secret, by appearing to be saying one thing, but smuggling through a different subtext under a surface cover to convey a quite different meaning.
The visual deceptions observed in the structure, patterning and coloration present in moth families provided me with visual material to use as metaphor for operating under the radar; fully functioning in plain view, but hidden from all but the closest scrutiny. An inversion on the idea of sleight of hand; this time, not by leading the eye away from the real subject, but rather fooling it into overlooking or misreading evidence presented to the eye.
However, as Winston Smith was to discover to his cost, that repressive state is equally adept at employing the same strategies. The small piece of raised bark on that tree trunk, the lichen on that stone wall, the peeling paint on the window frame; even the bird dropping on that nettle leaf. Watching.. Through each day, wherever we are, our movements are being monitored by small pairs of eyes hidden behind sophisticated crypsis. The state too, is hidden in plain sight; monitoring our tracks through actual and cyberspace…