Human/Animal/Artist: Art Inspired by Animals

Jason deCaires Taylor, Vicissitudes 2001 (detail)Exploring how the exquisite, elaborate and sophisticated works of animals can have a direct, fecund and illuminating relationship with contemporary art, the McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery presents the exhibition, Human/Animal/Artist: Art Inspired by Animals.

Curated by highly regarded author, art historian and curator, Janine Burke, Human/Animal/Artist: Art Inspired by Animals includes established and emerging contemporary artists who emulate, incorporate or refer to the works of animals, whether nest, web, hive, shelter, structure, design, trace, song or dance.

It includes international and local sculptors, painters, photographers, video installation and performance artists, and musicians: Lauren Berkowitz, Catherine Chalmers (USA), Catherine Clover, Joe Japananka James, Nicholas Mangan, Vera Möller, Samuel Namunjdja, Sean Peoples, Elizabeth Presa, David Rothenberg (USA), Sandra Selig, Tai Snaith, Jason deCaires Taylor (UK), Esme Timbery, Greg Mosquito Tjampitjinpa, Louise Weaver, Shona Wilson, Watarru Women’s Collaborative, John Wolseley.

The exhibition investigates notions of art and the role of the artist. It presents a dialogue between human and non-human aesthetic objects and provides a context whereby the animal’s work can be evaluated and appreciated within the context of art. It focuses on artists who display a unique and sensitive perspective about the originality, design, structure and aesthetics of works by non-human animals and reveals how it has influenced their practice.

Indigenous art plays a central role in the exhibition. In Aboriginal cosmologies certain animals are regarded as respected ancestors who play a vital and continuing role in the lives of Aboriginal people. Their stories and actions are continuously present and active. As the ancestral beings fought and hunted, made love and gave birth, they transformed themselves from animal to human to animal once more. So the boundaries between the species were dissolved and re-formed, shaped and re-shaped.

In the non-Indigenous art world, the late twentieth century saw a massive shift when the line dividing the animal from the human was challenged by the rise of the animal rights movement lead by the Australian philosopher Peter Singer.  That shift was underscored by the influential French philosopher Jacques Derrida who attacked ‘the subjugating superiority’ of humans over animals.

Debates about the significance and representation of animals have spread, influencing contemporary art and theory and making animals ‘an almost constant presence in our culture’ writes American historian Nigel Rothfels. Animal-influenced works have ‘literally invaded the gallery space’ comments Giovanni Aloi, Editor in Chief of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture and the animal has reached ‘the core of the debate in contemporary art practice’.

Human/Animal/Artist: Art Inspired by Animals is Dr Burke’s second animal-themed exhibition for McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery. In 2013, she curated the popular exhibition, Nest: The Art of Birds, based on her book of the same name.

Human/Animal/Artist: Art Inspired by Animals
McClelland Sculpture Park + Gallery, 390 McClelland Drive, Langwarrin
Exhibition continues to 19 February 2017
Entry by donation

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Jason deCaires Taylor, Vicissitudes 2001 (detail) Installation view: depths 5m Grenada, West Indies. Courtesy of the artist © Jason deCaires Taylor