The Art and the Animals

The Art and the Animals,
The creation of dog dog: Image for Australian Festival

by Jeremy Maher

dog dog: Image for the Festival of the Animals, Numinbah Valley, Australia 2002

dog dog: Image for the Festival of the Animals, Numinbah Valley, Australia 2002

Frank asked me if I would like to submit an image for the 2002 Festival. This is a little story about how that picture came to be and how the animals came into my art.

I created the image that was used for the festival during 2000. This image came to be as dog dog, (only because that’s what I named the file, and this is what I say to our dog when another dog passes by). At the time I was working towards completing a sizeable commission, and the first where I had an open brief to create a work. The process of completing this commission was a long one and during the process the animals first came into my work. I had been creating the spaces of our suburbs and towns, with a strong emphasis on their geometry, forms and order. Without realizing I found myself creating more organic spaces and freer forms. These were mountains and horizons. Specials places, places to journey to.

Alongside this was a slow emerging of animal forms from a particular rectangle I had been working with, which was solid black and seemed to glow. From this rigid geometry emerged a shimmering black animal form that vibrated with a luminous black energy. To me this animal form is a boar [which I found during the festival to be the same as my shadow animal that refers to himself as Salvador]. I usually date stamp and number stamp my work, but when I went to do this something stopped me. It is a very powerful picture. This was the first [and to date the most powerful] of the animal pictures.

It was not long before these animals found their way to these newly created spaces. In the end I was able to provide my client [who was a very good friend] a special place to go to and a spirit guide that lives there. I would come to refer to these pictures as the Tunguska series.

One day not long before the picture was introduced to its new owner it caught my eye as I left the room. I stood transfixed as I was transported to this place. For me the guide was a bison, and the place was a cold flat before a mountain ridge and covered in snow. It feels very northern and Siberian.

Above the hilltop was a flock of birds signaling a meeting of all the residents of this place. As I walked across the snow covered plain I could see all around my world. I started climbing up the hill towards the council meeting. I could feel the snow on my hoofs, and see the vapor as my warm breath meets the cold air which filled my huge lungs. I felt powerful and strong. The cold was not oppressive but wonderfully clean and alive. It is a very successful picture, and it gave me a wonderful sense of pride and achievement. To have the animals come so fully into my art was very wonderful, and to be able to create places and guides and protectors was quite magical for me. And I have faith that it is good art. With the exception of the piece commissioned and one other, I have kept all of these pictures and cannot bring myself to part with them.

Dog dog was a small sketch I did on my way to completing the commission. The original is charcoal on tracing film and quite small. It is a picture of a dog looking at his reflection in a pool of water. The picture just came together without me thinking about it. I have never been able to successfully reproduce this picture, as it never seems to work, so it only lives in hardcopy in the form of the original sketch. It lives taped to a window in my study.

When Frank asked me if I would like to create an image for the festival, I was in two minds. Currently my day work is very intensive and I find it hard to find the energy [and time] to immerse myself in personal creativity, and wasn’t sure that I could do the task justice, as the animals are important to me and it was a privilege to be asked to supply the artwork for the first Australian festival. At the same time I felt that I already had a perfect image that quite eloquently and accurately stood for the animal work.

During 2002 I had scanned a lot of my smaller pieces. I did some digital enhancing of the original and quickly I had an image that I happy with.

dog dog

…a wild dog is walking through his landscape… he comes across a small pool and instinctively goes towards it to take a drink… as he is drinking at the pool, he notices an animal staring back at him… he has not met this animal before but somehow he is familiar… they enter into a stare, and energy begins to flow between them… they meet and know each other… the dog learns things about the world and about himself… he does this without thinking or remembering…. eventually his time at the pool comes to a close… he finds himself drinking once more… he leaves to pool, no longer thirsty… filled with a great sense of peace, he continues on his way… I sent a range of images to Frank with a dog dog as the suggested image. When I turned up to the festival I saw dog dog and was excited and a bit moved.

During the opening ceremony as one of the participants talked of their dear friend that could not be at the festival, I felt a German shepherd come and stand to my right. This dog was to be my companion throughout the festival, and would also feature as my guide animal when seeking my wild and tame child. I feel that he will be my guide on future journeys, as if he is still with me.

This year I have committed to making the time and saving the energy necessary to create pictures, and places and guides. I also hope to have the opportunity to work with the animals at least once [I am 2000 kilometers from Frank], and enjoy the meeting of the art and the animals once again. [I am also working towards bringing my artwork to the internet].

I hope that the picture was appropriate and enjoyed by all who attended. Please feel free to contact me.

Be well.
Jeremy Maher
Melbourne Australia
mahjer [at] hotmail [dot] com
10 March 2003