New work is on its way! Prototypes ‘Girl and Dog’, two of seven figurines, ‘The Dreamers’, with original Biro drawings on china forms part of a wider project about life and death in the animal world, both naturally and at the hands of man.
‘Dog’ – A playful puppy looks towards its owner as it dreams and fears the dog meat trade – red Biro drawings of dog skulls form a pattern reminiscent of Chinese folk art or fabric patterns. In the centre of the skull pattern are the eyes of a rescued caged dog being pedalled in the Chinese dog meat trade. Originally domesticated from wolves, it is thought that dogs have been domesticated longest in East Asia.
Dogs have been eaten in China and other countries across the world for thousands of years. Dog meat is still consumed in China, Vietnam, Korea and Switzerland. These pieces question if there is a difference between eating dogs as opposed to other species consumption? They also highlight the inhumane conditions dogs are kept in before slaughter and methods of slaughter. A change in attitudes in dog consuming countries has seen the rise of Animal Welfare groups, particularly in China, campaigning against the consumption of dogs as they are increasingly viewed as pets, guide-dogs and rescue dogs. It is estimated that 25 million dogs are slaughtered each year for human consumption across the world.
‘Girl’ – a girl dreams of her pet dog being snatched by dog peddlers. She sees ‘mug shots’ of missing dogs on posters and worries that her dog will suffer the same fate. Eyes of caged dogs sold for slaughter haunt her dreams – black Biro drawings of caged dogs sold for the dog meat trade in China, some of which were rescued by Chinese Animal Welfare groups. The eyes of the dogs form a pattern on the girl’s clothing.
The base of the figurine is utilised as bars of a cage where dogs peer through the cage bars; or window panes where ‘mug shots’ of missing dog posters are pasted. Taiwan banned the sale of dog meat in 2001 and whilst the practice still continues illegally, the leaving of the ‘Made in Taiwan’ label notes the ban that was introduced by the Taiwanese government. Laid on its side, the folds of the figurine’s clothing resemble a landscape of Chinese mountains where the sets of haunting dogs’ eyes climb the food chain to their wolf origins (sets of wolf eyes are drawn at the top of the gown and in the centre). The mountains also represent ‘tradition’ being ‘as old as the hills’ and if challenged the enormity of breaking tradition. For people of many societies throughout the world the consumption of dog meat is banned, for many other dog meat consuming nations it is part of tradition. However I believe the question must be asked – consuming an animal whom humans use to enhance our lives emotionally, are used to aid disabled people and ultimately used to fight aside us on the front line of life and death situations whilst not having the capacity to understand what is being asked of them – is this a fitting reciprocation for the duties they undertake willingly for us?
Inspired by Goya’s Los Caprichos, ‘The Dreamers’ represent the innocent physicality of sleep whilst the torrid kaleidoscope of dreams cascades through the brain. ‘The Dreamers’ also represents the quiet moments of peace and daydreams before the inevitability of life’s realities steals ‘innocence’. Dreams play out like films in our minds, abstract fragments of the brain’s data input of information and our fears and hopes. Much of my work is based on the subject matter of loss through war and disaster or environmental destruction, represented in layered Biro drawings using stills from films often creating an abstracted phantasmagoria of images and thoughts. Films transport and capture our minds just like dreams do; they face our fears, portray our hopes and can be therapeutic tools in our waking hours as dreams are deemed brain therapy in our sleep.
I made a random collection of figurines from local charity shops, so that my philosophy of simply using what is close at hand, such as a Biro for drawings was upheld with the choice of figurines available on each day. Damaged and repaired figurines were still selected to retain the memory of the figurine’s previous life and owner. Each figurine was then painted white, purifying them from the original manufacturers painted design and stripping each figurine back to the foundations of its physical representation thus creating a blank canvas. This brings a sense of life to each figurine without the distraction of painted design before the original black Biro drawings are drawn onto the painted surface as well as white representing the purity of ‘a being’ at sleep. An incredibly hard surface to draw on, these pieces were challenging and remain precious for the intimacy shared with each piece by holding them in my hands as I drew on them.
Further images will be released as this project continues.
For anyone interested in more information about the dog meat trade please visit Humane Society International
A lovely idea Jane, and brilliantly realised as always. The boxer pup is particularly poignant, with the skulls on the drawings.
I visited China in 2000, and stayed with a friend who was working in Beijing. One night in a (duck) restaurant, I asked his Chinese boss about the eating of dogs, and how she viewed it. She considered the question for some time, then replied; ‘But you English eat tiny lambs, and cute piglets. The Europeans force feed geese for pate, and calves for veal. So who are you to criticise the eating of dogs?’. She had a point. As a meat-eater, I found it tricky to argue against her.
I have since bought a Shar-Pei dog. Originally used as fighting dogs in China, for gambling on, the loser would normally be eaten as a delicacy. I think the dilemma comes from the fact that domestic dogs place trust in us, and farm animals are not given the same credit for personality, or loyalty. I could never knowingly eat a dog, but cannot find it in myself to tell others not to.
Nonetheless, I will happily sign your petition.
Very best wishes, Pete.
Yes you’re right Pete which is why I have tried to explore both sides of the issue in these pieces and introduce the information I found in my research. It’s a long standing tradition to eat dog meat in many societies. However I think the bottom line for many across the world are the conditions the dogs are kept in and their treatment prior to slaughter and the slaughter methods used. Art is a good platform to explore all sides and get people talking about issues. Thank you as always for your comments and interest – I added the petition details for those who don’t agree with the treatment of dogs for the meat trade and like to add their voice against it so thank you very much for signing. Very best wishes for a dreich, rainy North, Jane
I have to wholeheartedly agree that the cramped cages, and terrible conditions of these poor animals, prior to often painful deaths, is distressing to see. I feel the same about pilot wale slaughter in the Faroe Islands, and many other aspects of so-called farming in many countries; most more affluent and supposedly more ‘civilised’, than China.
The issue we have to address is one of tradition. That is almost impossible to overturn as a concept, unfortunately.
At least Taiwan has started to accept the modern arguments, and I have a feeling that China will eventually come around.
Also wet in Norfolk! Best wishes, Pete.
Yes you raise great points about whales too and ‘farming’ Pete. It was really heartening to read in my research that attitudes to cruelty are changing and I guess these changes come from people discussing difficult issues and expressing their thoughts. I felt that this was an issue that many still don’t know much about which is why I chose to discuss it through my work. I think you’re right and things will change eventually. Oh dear, a rainy east coast then! BW Jane