Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Upping the Ante

*There was only one valuation in my mind. £48,000 - the price of a single rhino horn on the black market*

In recent years I have become increasingly concerned about the rate at which we are losing our rhinos. By ‘our’ I mean collectively, as sentient beings on this planet. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were half a million rhinos roaming the world. As it stands, there are fewer than 30,000 (all species combined). If we were rhinos, all of us would fit in Leicester City's football Stadium, and there would still be room to spare. 

Since 2014, South Africa alone has lost almost 3,500 rhinos to poaching. That’s over 3 a day. Each time we all sat down to a meal in the past 3 years, South Africa lost another rhino to crime. Our species has driven this dramatic decline, and we will be the poorer if we drive them to extinction. 

As a trade, rhino horn has always baffled me. Outdated beliefs in horn possessing medicinal qualities have been unequivocally quashed by science. A rhino horn is made from Keratin - the very same protein that makes up our fingernails, hair and the outer layer of our skin. Consuming large quantities of it will, at best, give you an upset stomach. 

South Africa recently made legal a domestic trade in rhino horn, in the hope of crushing the illegal trade and bringing down the value of horn. I am not so optimistic. Legitimising the trade only gives poachers and traffickers a veil to hide behind when illegally laundering  horns, and it sends out mixed messages to the rest of the world which overwhelmingly backs a ban. Do we really want to set a precedent where rhinos are farmed like cattle? And for what? The horn is of no benefit to humans, only rhinos. It is up to us to act as guardians not owners, and it has been shown that we can still protect rhinos in the wild if we set our minds to it.

Many artists do what they can to help protect wildlife. I drew this piece to draw attention to this brutal trade, and create something that could shock and make people think twice. When it was shortlisted for the final of the DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition, I was asked to put a price on it. There was only one valuation in my mind. £48,000 - the price of a single rhino horn on the black market.


Any purchaser of the Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibits is supporting the conservation work of the David Shepherd Wildlife FoundationAny purchaser would be investing in conservation and creativity as an antidote to those purchasing rhino horn and fuelling the decline of rhinos across the world.

Mind boggling figures get banded about so readily these days that the impact of £48K for a rhino horn gets lost in 10 figure divorce settlements for Brexit, or the price of Kim Kardashian’s new earrings. I want people to be shocked when they see the price of this artwork, no bigger than an actual rhino horn. The harsh reality is that there are many people in this world who will happily pay that to acquire a horn. For whatever delusions of grandeur or medical immortality, ultimately all you end up with is another dead rhino. In a rapidly growing online world, where the speed at which we consume our news is ever on the rise, visual content is key to grabbing people’s attention. While few could purchase this piece at this price, everyone can help spread the word and give the plight of rhinos the oxygen of publicity. We can all spread the word, provoking thought and discussion about the value we ascribe to wildlife dead or alive. My hope is that this piece will earn its value from the awareness it generates about this bloodthirsty trade.

Exhibition details:

Venue: Mall Galleries, SW1, London
Dates: 28 June - 2 July 2017
Further details: 
https://davidshepherd.org/wildlife-artist-year-2017

Listen to the Young Voices


A couple of months back I was visiting friends and sat making playdough rhinos with their 6 year old son, Frankie. We talked about the northern white rhinos and the fact that there are only 3 left in the world. Some weeks later Frankie’s mum got in touch to say that it had been on his mind and he wanted to do something to help. In his words, he wanted to help "make a baby rhino". So he came up with the ‘Rhinos UP’ project to try and raise funds for the Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s ‘Most Eligible Bachelor’ campaign.

Frankie's vision is to build a huge flowerbed in one of their local parks, designed in the shape of Sudan - the last male northern white rhino on earth. The proposal to his council in Cambridge involves planting native bee-friendly flowers and he is currently out knocking on doors in the community to gather support for his idea.


I am backing Frankie on this project because the only positive result for rhinos relies on the next generation taking up the mantle and being the wildlife guardians of the future. Witnessing such passion and understanding in someone so young must only be encouraged. Frankie is my Young Wildlife Champion of the Year

Watch this space for more about #RhinosUP and ways to get involved.


Frankie’s petition letter to the public:





Monday, 17 April 2017

DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year 2017


I recently found out that all three artworks I submitted to the DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year have been shortlisted for this year's event in June.

With a record number of entries this year, I'm both shocked and delighted. Dates for the exhibition are listed below. If you can make it to the London Mall Galleries during this time, I'd highly recommend dropping by. Going on previous years, the standard of work on display is intimidatingly good! 50% of all profits also goes towards supporting wildlife conservation projects.











Here's one of my shortlisted works - 'Twocans'. I'm very proud to be a part of this great show for the 9th year running. Maybe this year... 


PRIVATE VIEW: Tuesday June 27 – by invitation

PUBLIC OPENING:
Wednesday June 28 – Sunday July 2
(Wed-Fri 10am-5pm – Sat 10am-4pm – Sun 10am-1pm)

 
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