February 10, 2012 § 1 Comment
Away from the Pod, currently installed within the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield, is the third of a series of ‘encounters’ with the scale of life-sized cetaceans that I have attempted to realise through drawing. One of the great advantages of the Millennium Galleries is its inclusive ‘mall-like’ design that allows those with curiosity to see things in passing; and to draw them in through a form of cultural faire du lèche-vitrine …
I had a conversation with the writer Philip Hoare – author of the amazing Leviathan – not so long ago. We met in the cafe of the Natural History Museum, South Kensington – just a wall and a few meters separating us from the massive blue whale model that occupies the Whale Hall. We discussed, amongst other things, how we felt ourselves to be the first generation to have recognised and felt a connection with the great whales as something other – and so much more – than a source of industrial fats; about the iconic status of these animals that has passed through cliché and pastiche into positive reinvention by a new ‘post-nuke-the-baby-whales’ generation.
We also discussed my reasons for drawing life-sized cetaceans, for placing these impossible encounters into galleries (the new churches?) and (where possible) into deconsecrated spaces that still – albeit silently – echo the sacred.
We spoke about the history of representing animals, of notions of sacrifice and vessels for sin. These ideas have a clear and poignant resonance in the plight of the great cetacean apex predators; how their position at the top of the food chain means that they more or less literally Hoover up PCBs, heavy metals and other contaminants … how they have become living repositories, as it were, for the sins of the world.