Anne Ferran - Songbirds are Everywhere

Exhibition: 13 April to 14 May, 2011

Anne Ferran

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Like many people Anne Ferran keeps a close eye on the birds around her - would give a lot to understand their social life but mostly it remains a mystery. She made a discovery last year that intensified this interest: the on-line existence of the paintings of the artists of the First Fleet, in the collection of the Natural History Museum in London. The First Fleet artists painted the birds they encountered on arrival and that shared their strange new world more often than any other subject.

The paintings are detailed and descriptive, full of character and individuality. Ferran found herself imagining the encounters that might occur between races or species of birds that were new to one another. This led to a video work, Songbirds are Everywhere, where brief encounters play out between small bird shapes based on the original paintings.

Most of the artists gave their painted subjects an English common name; some have persisted while others have fallen into disuse. Ferran’s regret for the loss of bird names like agile creeper, bold vulture, doubtful thrush, velvet-faced crow is real, but mild compared to the loss of the indigenous Eora names that at least one artist made a point of recording. Her photographs of small nets flung into the air preserve a few of these obsolete English names as titles.