Like lovers entwined …

October 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Schistosoma mansoni

Preliminary sketch for drawing to measure 1.5m x 1.5m.

The Schistosoma are a genus of trematodes (otherwise known as platyhelminthes, flatworms or ‘flukes’). Unlike other trematodes, the schistosomes are dioecious – i.e. the sexes are separate – yet the male surrounds the female and encloses her within his gynacophoric canal throughout the entire adult lives of the worms …

Commonly known as blood-flukes and bilharzia, schistosome worms are responsible for significant parasitic infection of humans (they infest and migrate through human blood vessels). Causing the disease schistosomiasis, they are considered by the World Health Association to be the second most socioeconomically devastating parasites; second only to malaria in their impact.



October 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Away from the Pod – line drawing

Away from the Pod – completed preliminary drawing

Preliminary drawing for ‘Away from the Pod’: a life-sized (5m x 1.5m) drawing of a killer whale which will feature as part of ‘Under the Sea’, an exhibition curated by Rowena Hamilton which opens in January 2012 at Millennium Galleries, Sheffield.

The title ‘Away from the Pod’ directly references ‘Away from the Flock’: a work by Damien Hirst from 1994 which features a lamb enclosed in a tank of formaldehyde.

The orca (Orcinus orca), less commonly known as the blackfish, is the largest species of dolphin. It lives in matrilineal groups. This means that both male and female offspring stay with the mother for the duration of her life, only breaking away from her to hunt and mate. Despite the fearsome nature of this ocean predator, there have been no observations of violence occurring within these close-knit and harmonious family groups. Beyond the family orcas form complex, cultural communities; they are highly communicative and they exhibit remarkable resourcefulness (for example recently developed sustainable fishing practices in the North Pacific have been quickly exploited by orcas who have fed well off fish-laden hooked lines).

The intention was to create a tight, confined graphic space for our orca, perhaps reminiscent of the solitary confinement within which captive members of the species live. The curved dorsal fin, bent to fit the dimensions of the drawing, is a symptom of captivity and is not found in wild killer whales.

The Beast Within

October 6, 2011 § Leave a comment


Giardia is a genus of  protozoan parasites of the phylum Metamonada that colonise and reproduce in the small intestines of several vertebrates, causing giardiasis, which is commonly known as Beaver fever. Chief pathways of human infection include ingestion of untreated sewage, a phenomenon particularly common in many developing countries; contamination of natural waters also occurs in watersheds where intensive grazing occurs.

This is the first sketch from a series that will be used to make four or five large scale drawings of human parasites measuring 1.5m x 1.5m. I am creating these drawings in collaboration with Prof Matthew Cobb, Prof Kathryn Else and Dr Sheena Cruickshank from the Faculty of Life Sciences at Manchester University.

By drawing these parasites on a human scale – or at least on the scale of human children – I hope to create a visceral contrast between the strange beauty of these organisms and the horrific nature of their impact upon human beings. This beauty is especially apparent when seen from a safe distance through the medium of the electron microscope …

Though some might find allusions to science fiction and Hollywood body horror to be apparent  in these drawings, the actual experience of coming to terms with these organisms is significantly more challenging. When I visited the Department of Life Sciences at Manchester University I was shown a video of a whipworm infestation in a young girl’s intestines. This image will live with me forever; although fortunately  it is only an image in my mind, not a hideous writhing mass within my intestinal tract.

One of the many strange things about these parasitic organisms – aside from any consideration of their remarkable, otherworldly forms – is that they imbue barely discovered immunological benefits to the host. Thus our quite visceral reactions, our disgust, has to be tempered by an emerging understanding of the complexity of our physically enmeshed relationship with these species.

Cetacean Subculture

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

‘Away from the Pod’, a life sized rendering of a killer whale and the first drawing for Origin011, is in the process of developing from a series of drawings entitled ‘Cetacean Subculture’.

Rowena Hamilton, curator at Museums Sheffield, has asked me to create a large scale drawing for a panel in the Millennium Galleries measuring 5m x 3.6m. My first task has been to identify a species that will fit into the panel – not an easy task bearing in mind the fact that most of the great whales measure in excess of 20m.

Research revealed that the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), measures 2 to 4m in length and will thus fit the space of the drawing quite nicely at life-size.

I began work on three preliminary drawings of dolphins. The first, which I entitled ‘Goodbye And Thanks For All The Fish’, featured a dolphin fitted with a US navy surveillance device. I felt that there was something disturbingly perverse in this image – especially given the accounts that we have of dolphins in the wild acting in an apparently atruistic way towards drowning humans …

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

In the second two drawings, again based on bottlenosed dolphins, I have dressed the cetaceans up in clown’s clothes. I am currently in the process of making a painting from the second, Harlequin, sketch – I feel that a colour treatment of this image will pack a much more powerful emotional punch.



I have also sketched a baby sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) in its mother’s womb. My intention was to imbue this image with a sense of our primordial mammalian kinship; the massive infant floating like a human baby in the same form of amniotic fluid, connected to its mother via the same umbilical cord …


The chosen image, however, is a life sized orca or killer whale (Orcinus orca); which I have drawn curled up into an area measuring 5m x 1.3m; a graphic space that only just contains its massive 6-8m form.

I will upload the finished preliminary drawing to my next blog post.

Away from the Pod

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

The first drawing for Origin011: a life sized rendering of an orca or killer whale and provisionally entitled ‘Away from the Pod’, has developed from a series of drawings entitled ‘Cetacean Subculture’.

After Rowena Hamilton, curator at Museums Sheffield, saw my drawing ‘Leviathan’, a life sized drawing of a sperm whale made for the x-church project space in Lincolnshire, I was asked to create another large scale drawing for a panel in the Millennium Galleries measuring 5m x 3.6m.

My first challenge was to identify a species that would fit on the panel. This has not been a completely straightforward task because most adult great whales measure in excess of 20m …

Leviathan, x-church project space, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, Darwin Day, 2009

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