Elephant in the Room, Brenda May Gallery, Sydney, Australia

Humans have shared a complicated and necessary history with animals. Loved or abused, these relationships vary greatly depending on our view towards each particular species. There are times where the importance of animals in the lives of humans is misunderstood or forgotten, and so circumstances have risen where certain animals are treated with apathy, neglect and mistreatment. A recent group exhibition, Elephant in the Room is currently on display at Brenda May Gallery. This selection of work highlights the importance of animals in the lives of humans. Elephant in the Room is not only a conceptual display of art that sheds light on unspoken realities; it also serves a purpose of giving back to the animal community as a portion of sales goes directly to the Animal Welfare League NSW. This generous charity assists with the care of surrendered, neglected and abandoned animals.

Gallery Manager and Curator Brenda May is an animal lover who sees animal welfare as a cause that sits close to her heart. The space is home to a gallery dog who often welcomes guests upon arrival. The work selected for Elephant in the Room demonstrates the diverse and unique ways in which each artist has translated the theme through their perspective. May informs: “A few of the works in the exhibition also become about the animals by their presence being concealed or minimilised.” The works which contain hidden and ambiguous tones: “…all call for the viewer to search for the animal, which effectively should draw attention to the invisibility of many animal-related issues.” Viewers are encouraged to investigate and uncover each artist’s deeply enriched narratives.

This visually reflective survey sees projected images strewn across natural rocky landscapes, delicate paper works gently laden with inks together with collage work layered with texture. Figurines with their luminous colour entertain and amuse within their stationary habitats, oil paintings allow a glimpse into figurative and mysterious scenes and film works uncover timeless moments shared with companions. The plentiful range of mediums maintains a curious interest, allowing viewers to examine the fine details preserved in each piece within close proximity.

Many of works featured in Elephant in the Room were made specifically for the exhibition. The gallery endeavors to find artists predominately online while also looking into recommendations made by artists already involved in the project: “My team and I selected works for the show based on their interest, relevancy to the theme and whether we felt they would find an audience in our Gallery.” May continues to reveal that her team: “will not decide the placement of works until they are all in the room together as sometimes unexpected relationships or oppositions form between works when they are in close quarters.” When the exhibition is observed with all the works in place, it becomes apparent that many elements were strategically considered before the final presentation. The directional flow of observation from piece to piece is pleasant and allows every object to be analysed individually and free from distraction.

Artists are capable of producing work that raises attention to issues that spectators were perhaps previously unaware of beforehand. Perspectives can be altered, shifted and changed simply by being presented with an alternate way of thinking. May reflects: “Art is one of the few platforms that is not mediated and filtered to serve the agendas of people in power or big corporations. Most contemporary artists do not have to answer to anybody and are therefore able to convey, discuss and conceptualise the issues that can be ignored or swept under the rug.” Artists continue to find their ground and learn how to communicate their feelings through artistic mediums. The more exhibitions that reference areas most in need of change act as a contributor towards progress.

Artists: Sybil Curtis, Amanda Davies, Todd Fuller, Ashleigh Garwood, Jody Graham, Claude Jones, Irianna Kanellopoulou, Waratah Lahy, Helen Mueller, Mylyn Nguyen, Uracha Oliver, Janet Parker-Smith, Patsy Payne, Hanna Tai, Lezlie Tilley, Peter Tilley, and Nicole Welch.

Elephant in the Room, Brenda May Gallery, until 29 November, 2 Danks Street Waterloo, NSW, Australia.

Sara Sweet

1. Nicole Welch, Apparitions #6 – Projection ‘Le Kangaroo me charge, 1869’ 2014, pigment ink, face-mounted 80 x 80cm edition of 6 ‘Le Kangaroo me charge’ engraving from Australie : voyage autour de monde / par le Comte de Beauvoir 1869.