THEOPHANYThe owl is highly susceptible to modern living. Roads and wires, poisoning, intensive farming methods all contribute to causalities and starvation. To these factors we can add the natural pressure upon their numbers by predation, prolonged periods of bad weather and the effects of all on foraging habitat, nesting sites and changes in small mammal abundance. In the installation 'There are old english gods', a tawny owl presides over a herd of encumbered bovines that through fragmentation, immersion and burning suggest the disappearing animal and griefs and sufferings that have gone unheard. The animals, sacred and totemic, are my primary audience and my work is guided by their suffering; I feel they are in my body just as much as I attempt to realise what is most precious in theirs.
Even though I would claim that not one species is absent from this bestiary, there are yet certain creatures that have a primary role in my imagination and which are possessed of particular divinatory qualities. Owl, fox, dog, cat, woodpecker, calf, siskin, crow: I have encountered them all in some manner connected with death or loss, and they have of course an English nature, coming as they do from a rich symbolic tradition. They do invisible work for humankind, of this I am certain; almost to the point of making a kind of sacrifice which is to trespass the boundaries between the kingdoms. If they reveal themselves to us in their majesty and vulnerability then I would call it a kind of grace, and we the recipients of a strange gift which is the sense of environmental responsibility that comes with grace.
Now that we are in the anthropocene I imagine that the singular events of an animal theophany will become legion, if this is not already the case. Whatever the redemptive god is that passes through life in each global crisis, it comes to us in its binary form which, in shadow, suggests that supreme self-sacrifice and self-remedy is taking place. Mass slaughter, prolonged suffering and heightened threat to the animal kingdom are all indicative of this final act.