Birdwing Series


About the Paintings

About the Paintings

These paintings evolved when, after a long period of other artistic activities, I found a way of combing my need to get back to painting, with my feelings about the environment. I feel deep anger at the current appalling wilderness destruction and resulting species lose, which is happening across the planet. I have been witnessing it since a child in England in the 1940s, Malaysia in the 1950s and 70s and British Columbia since I moved here in 1969. Destruction is everywhere.

Art making is fundamental to my being but the natural world has always held equal or greater importance for me. It therefore felt very good to develop a way of working that combined both these passions. Having worked with, and taught, current art practice for many years, I found it a surprise to be painting leaves and butterflies. It certainly required a degree of courage to continue. However I comfort myself with the thought that progress in art often requires moving outside of the accepted envelope.

Initially I had no intention of exhibiting these images of imagined tropical plants and endangered insects as they were purely personal, though symbolic, renderings of just a few examples of the millions of animals and plants that, I believe, should be valued and protected in the natural world. I realize though, that with an issue as critical as this, it is important that I try to get these paintings seen.

I have come to think of this work as analogous to the paintings of our cave- dwelling ancestors. It is thought that they painted the wild horses and other Paleolithic animals as a ritualistic way of possessing those prey animals.

Maybe I am painting these threatened life forms as an intimate way of identifying, understanding, and preserving them, or possibly of making them sacrosanct.

Ornithoptera Aesacus

This is one of the least known of the Birdwings. It is found only on Obi Island, in the Indonesian Moluccas. Obi has been closed to outside travel for a great many years and few examples are in collections. Little is known of the numbers of this butterfly but it is assumed that the Aesacus is fairly secure, as no logging has been allowed on the island.
Robert Graves says that Aesacus was a son of Arisbe, the first wife of Priam, King of Troy. When Aesacus great love Asterope, the daughter of a river, died he tried repeatedly to kill himself by jumping into the sea from a high cliff. Finally the Gods took pity on him and turned him into a diving bird “thus allowing him to indulge his passion with greater decency”.

  • The males have a wingspan up to 14 cm.
  • The females have a wingspan up to 19 cm.

It is classified as indeterminate in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’.

Aescus Birdwing
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Acrylic on birch ply

h 38.5” w 61.5”
98cm x 156cm