Last year I had several exhibitions in London, including my first solo exhibition, at Betty’s Cafe in Shoreditch. I created a series of works focusing on my favourite subject, a lifelong love of animals.
Animals are a huge source of inspiration to me not only because of the diversity of species and habitats but because they each have such fascinating individual character traits and behaviours unique to their species.
Whilst writing my first children’s book: “The Bamboo Forest” (which I entered into the Macmillan prize in 2010), I spent a lot of time reading about the lives of pandas and really getting to know their driving instincts: what they eat, how they live, the challenges they face, anything which might inform my ideas and contribute to the personality of my characters.
Animals all have amazing attributes. They lead complex lives fraught with danger, often with strong characteristics which are a constant source of inspiration.
My love of animals and research makes reading about their ill treatment, how certain species are near to extinction, misconception and illegal trade, the destruction of habitats and spurious medical practices all the more distressing. I couldn’t have an exhibition about animals without at least touching on this, which is what informed my collection of artworks: “They Walk Among Us”. In other words, animals’ lives are as valid as our own: they deserve to be protected and their habitats respected as much as our own species. In my exhibition, I attribute personalities to the animals in human settings to ask: if they led our lives, would we treat and respect them any differently?