‘Love in the Anthropocene, II’ (subtitled – this is not an oil painting)
Acrylic paint on linen
170 x 170 cm
This work is a scale representation of the nest of a White-bellied Sea Eagle. It is an intimate view, looking directly into the nest from above. Spilling over the edges of the canvas, it is accurate in construction and form. If anything, it is modest in size, as these nests may be used over many successive years and grow to several metres in dimension. It has been done in consultation with Simon Cherriman, an ornithologist specialising in Australian raptors, who has generously shared his expert knowledge and images as reference material. These nests are typically built in tall, dead trees or high on rocky outcrops. Branches are snapped off in flight for the construction. Fish frames and the remains of other food items such as crustaceans will often be found within the margins of the nest. Sea Eagles, like other Australian raptors, use eucalyptus leaves as a lining to keep nests free of mites.
The piece contains over one hundred fragments of human artefacts cast from acrylic paint, in a technique I have developed over the past six years. Amongst these artefacts are ropes, single use plastics such as straws, balloons, lighters, bottle caps, and packaging. All of these have been collected by me from Australian beaches, many from Bruny Island. In addition to these fragments are drone components and rotor blades. The incidences of clashes between birds and drones are increasing as both professional and recreational drone use grows. Many of the plastics found in the nest will be collected incidentally as nesting materials, but others will be present as a byproduct of ingestion occurring throughout the food chain and terminating in the diet of an apex predator.
The work explores the theme of adaptation through the motif of a nest, specifically of one of Bruny Islands’ vulnerable species. Despite changes wrought by human activity and challenges presented by a changing environment, nesting – and the raising of offspring – remain a constant. It is a celebration of this imperative and the ingenuity required to realise it, whilst acknowledging the impact the Anthropocene age has, and continues to exert, on this endeavour.