Full artist statement:
I am focusing on capturing farm animals within their enclosures to explore farming ethics and how this affects the welfare of animals.
I use acrylic paints onto small scale board as I love the process of layering paints to create different textures. I have been using small scale board partly because I am used to working small scale from lockdowns last year, but also to emphasise that animal enclosures are often too small, and the animals are trapped within a space. I have started to incorporate abstract colours in my work, even adding unnatural greens to my realistic paintings to show how unnatural it is to keep animals trapped for a show for humans, especially since they are the animals which are killed for food consumption. I am focusing on creating a large amount of paintings as often farm animals like sheep are grouped together in flocks so this, though unintentional at first, works well with my theme.
Within this work, I hope to make the viewer feel empathy towards the animals and make them consider how it would feel to be trapped within a space. Since the lockdowns last year, people will already have some experience of feeling trapped which could affect the ways people interpret my work. By focusing on farm animals, I want to demonstrate the fact that they are deemed unimportant, either being used for show or slaughtered for food for a large amount of humans. The animals featured in my work have different expressions and look directly at the viewer which is ironic as it makes the viewer feel like they are the ones in the cage. This also demonstrates how farm animals have become domesticated, relying on the presence of humans to be fed.
When presenting my work, I intend to have an irregular arrangement yet place them close together to emphasise the confined space that most farm animals have. Going to different locations of farms or animal sanctuaries to collect primary evidence in the form of photos and drawings is important as places use different materials for the enclosures, which is why my work features both standard wooden farm enclosures and wire enclosures. Although both create a sense of being trapped, the painting of the goat behind the wire enclosure is a lot harder hitting and menacing, creating a sense of isolation. My work effectively portrays the confinement that farm animals experience in their lifetime that the viewer can hopefully sympathise with. To develop this idea further, I need to paint a lot more paintings of animals in their enclosures to create a herd of animals so that I can make my ideas more obvious to the viewer. I want to consider my uses of colour more as making my work too abstract can distract from the seriousness of the subject.
I have done research into a range of painters including Henry Moore, particularly his sheep paintings as that subject relates to my work a lot. The works of Franz Marc and Andy Warhol were vital during my colour exploration stages and could help develop my work further provided I am more selective. I like the idea of presenting my work within a gallery on a white wall so that the viewer can fully focus on the work without too many distractions.
Short artist statement for website:
I am currently focusing on exploring the ethics of keeping animals, particularly farm animals, in captivity. This topic is so normalised in day to day life through farms and even animals in the countryside which we see when driving to places. I am hoping to give a voice to animals and allow them to communicate how being in captivity makes them feel and impacts on them. Colour is an important aspect of my work to represent how humans are often hypocrites who claim to care about the welfare of animals but don’t actually do anything to better the situation. Subtlety is important to me as I want to make people see through sympathy rather than disgust or outrage from violent imagery, the innocent imagery is very important to me. The idea of humans being regarded as more important than animals has always saddened me as we are similar in so many ways and animals deserve a lot more respect than we give them. There is more to animals than becoming a food for us to consume or a form of entertainment.
Short Artist Statement for Degree Show (3rd person):
Gemma Sly is exploring the ethics of keeping animals, particularly farm animals, in captivity. This topic is normalised in day-to-day life through farms and animals in the countryside which we see when driving. She has an intention to give a voice to animals and allow them to communicate how captivity impacts them. Colour is an important aspect of her work to represent the humorous irony of people who claim to care about the welfare of animals but don’t do anything to better their situation. Animals are more than food for us to consume or a form of entertainment.