Birdwing

 

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 Alexandrae

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is the largest butterfly in the world with the females having a wingspan up to 11 1/2 inches or 280mm. It was first collected in 1906. It is named for the wife of the then British King Edward V11. Queen Alexandra was born Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1844. She died 1925.

This butterfly lives in the canopy of the lowland rainforests and of secondary growth areas rich in aristolacia vines. It is found in a few very small areas in southeast Papua New Guinea.

The wings are iridescent blue and green and black and this very beautiful butterfly is highly prized by collectors. The wing shapes are unique and distinctive. The butterflies live for 3 months.

  • The caterpillars grow to 11 x 3 cm.
  • The males have a wingspan of up to 19 cm.
  • The females have a wingspan of up to 24 cm.

It is said that the survival of this species is dependant on 9 remaining 10 sq. km areas of habitat.

Ornithoptera alexandrae is classified as endangered in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’.

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing
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2004

Acrylic on birch ply

h 38.5” w 66.5” 98cm x 169cm