For the best part of a month a huge rhinoceros has been squatting in my studio. The beast takes up most of the downstairs floor. The dog refuses to cross the threshold and if I’m ever to get started on the drawings for my imminent exhibition, The Gilded Desert (And Other Allegories of the Beau-Monde), then someone has to be off “on safari” very soon.
The African savannah is anything but “gilded” for the rhino nowadays, judging by the work of Tusk, the conservation charity for whom I am decorating one of 21 rhino sculptures that will appear across London in the autumn.
Tusk’s London Rhino Trail will help to raise money to protect various endangered animals from the threat of poaching and to maintain the habitats on which they depend.
My rhinoceros is titled AD’s Rhino and recreates Albrecht Dürer’s 1515 woodcut. The famous German printmaker never saw a rhino in the flesh and based his depiction on a written description of the animal. Back in the 16th century an artist had to imagine what a rhino looked like on account of the animals’ very recent appearance on the European scene. Imagine if we had to do the same now because of their recent total disappearance.
The seven big sepia ink drawings I’ve been creating over the summer form an exhibition on the general theme of the comforts of wealth. Pictures of St Tropez, St Moritz and St James’s etc. They depict the domain of the wealthy and manifest the predictable opprobrium that is often generated by displays of good fortune. High living has throughout history prompted the creation of all manner of analogies and allegories to caution the poor souls who find themselves in such morally perilous circumstances.
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