As part of my china and print series ‘In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’ the first Biro drawing in the Siberian Tiger diptych was inspired by two things – a drawing by an old master and an iconic image of India.
The synonymous image of a Royal Bengal tiger bathing in a pool in Ranthambore National Park, India with its majestic ruined palaces, was the basis for my Russian fantasy of the Siberian tiger. Albrecht Dürer’s beautiful and beguiling drawing ‘Landscape with a Woodland Pool’ 1496, a photograph of a forest pool in Ussuriland and Ivan Shishkin’s painting, ‘The Forest of Countess Mordvinova’, 1891, form the inspiration for the background drawing layers, creating the fantastical setting for a bathing Siberian Tiger.
At the edge of the lake sits a Dacha birdcage from my own collection. Reclining inside is a Siberian tiger, further suggesting the image of Royal Bengal tigers shading inside Indian palaces but also indicating the thousands of tigers kept in captivity in comparison with so few remaining wild tigers. A giant Siberian tiger sweeps through the forest background, emulating the Udege and Nanai name for the tiger “Amba”, ‘Guardian of the Forest’. Breaking through the forest is a cavalry of Red Army soldiers symbolising the devastation wreaked on the Siberian Tiger population, which was almost extinguished by both Red and White Armies around Vladivostok during the Russian Revolution.
On the right walks a tiger beside an Udege woman from a still photograph I took of ‘Amba the Russian Tiger‘, 2008, Gordon Buchanan, proclaiming the fragility of not only the tiger population but the indigenous people of Ussuriland. The tiger in the pool looks beyond a sniper rifle hidden in the foliage, outside the picture towards ‘Bang!’ the second drawing in the Siberian Tiger diptych. A skull with a bullet hole depicted in ‘Bang!’ indicates what the tiger in the pool is watching, a tiger hunt!
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