Thursday, 28 August 2014

To collect but not to kill.

I choose not to kill insects. I am interested in insects, I know how to kill insects and I accept that I am allowed to kill insects but I have no desire to kill insects. I have no legitimate scientific reason why the collection of specimens is valid and I get great pleasure from using photography and drawing to record live specimens in the field, when they sit still, and yet as others have before me, I desire to collect. 

Collecting is as part of me as breathing, my sheds, shelves, freezers and home are full of things I have collected and many, most of them to do with natural history (*apology to my long suffering wife). This passive limitation, with regard to not killing to collect, does of course limit my collections and it also means that the specimens are often battered and imperfect. I don't mind this, in-fact I have embraced this in a number of artworks, mounting and presenting all of the insects I have found dead over the course of a year in  'Natural Causes - 2004' and other works. The aesthetic satisfaction that I gain from pinning and organising finds can, for me, be met by arranging these imperfect treasures and it encourages me to look very closely at the floor at all times, on windowsills, road edges and in swimming pool filters. Consistent close attention opens your eyes to the often overlooked and disregarded and the beauty to be found in the miniature tragedies that surround all of us. Road kill is another matter, in scale and complexity, and I am continuing to teach myself taxidermy to free up freezer space for family food, and some things are simply too big to pickle. This way of working means that you also can't predict what you might stumble on, literally, so I carry pots, gloves, pin boxes and other items so that I'm ready to take advantage of exciting discoveries, although on more than one occasion I have forgotten about a dead sparrow popped into a pocket on the cycle back from college. 

From my collections I am then able to draw, paint, assemble sculptures and photograph and as a resource for my work as an art lecturer they are invaluable and frequently loaned to staff students and the biology department. In France this summer, perhaps due to the rain, specimens were rather thin on the ground, if you forgive the use of phrase, however I assembled the box beneath and so another space on my shelves is filled and I can again focus on stuffing the seagull in the ice box.

Carpenter bee found beautiful, iridescent and dead behind the window shutters in the French house.

Grasshopper that unfortunately jumped into my hot coffee as I drew crickets at night by torchlight.

Hoverfly that I found dead on the floor by the wardrobe in the french house corridor.

Moth which I dried out having retrieved it from the swimming pool where it drowned.

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