Size: 21cm x 30cm
Technique: Acrylic and enamel paint on canvas
Description: Bluehead wrasse employ a unique survival mechanism, or “alternative male strategy.” The fish start off life and reproduce as female, but then shift to being male fol-lowing successful reproduction.
This series of works is an exploration of identity and how it is multifaceted and non – linear. Often in life we are required to assume a persona in response to how others might perceive us or what ‘image’ we may wish to convey. We often change our look or behaviour dependant on the situation - adapting in order to ‘fit in’ – like a chameleon changes colour to match its surroundings so that it cannot be seen. Maybe we pretend to be some-thing or someone when we are really hiding in plain sight like the valley orchids assuming the shape of bees to attract pollinators. Sometimes our identities surprise us – being small or insignificant doesn’t mean we are powerless – deadly even - like the tiny poisonous amazon tree frogs. Identity is also fluid– like gender can be - we see this in nature when animals such as the blue wrasse can change sex to balance numbers or the bearded drag-on in response to external forces such as temperature before they hatch. For me identity is the duality between my exterior self – the ‘me’ that seeks to be accepted/acceptable and the inner me - my true self and my sense of ‘otherness’ which is hidden. Skin – like outward shows of identity - need not define us or be used as camouflage – it can be changed or even shed – identities of old cast aside so that a truer open self can be revealed. The works are each named for an animal/plant genus which have these shapeshifting qualities in their make-up – their skin of identity – highlighting the yellow that appears for all its signification. Yellow as a colour is imbued with a powerful contradiction and ambivalence in how it can be perceived. Negative connotations include warning, caution, sickness, cowardice, excess and even mental illness. Its opposite meanings are warmth, sunshine, and positivity, enthusiasm and enlightenment, creativity and optimism. Two aspects competing to make the whole - much like the ying & yang of identity – complimentary and contradicting.