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Explore The Popular Pet Show

The artists and their furry friends

Sarah Engledow and Acorn, 2016 by Mark Mohell
Sarah Engledow and Acorn, 2016 by Mark Mohell

They say there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I asked a nice bounty hunter if there really is, and he said yes, especially these days, with new technology. All I can assert with authority is that there’s more than one way to paint a cat.

In recent works of art, animals have often appeared as slightly menacing characters, playing shadowy parts in indeterminate scenes. Happily, meanwhile, leading painters keep expressing the gaiety and cosiness that many of us share with our animal companions, and celebrating their trusting, unpretentious souls.

Lately, the fifteen Australian artists whose work appears in this exhibition have painted people and their animal friends very differently. The range is no surprise: the artists’ own stories are very various, including not just how, but why they make art, how it challenges them, and what they get out of it.

As a big fan of the internet, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of animal snaps, but I can’t say I’ve learned much from looking at them. By contrast, the painted, sculpted and drawn pet animals in this exhibition make congenial guides to random, basic ideas about art. Some artists go at their subjects in fervour and some labour over individual hairs. For me, even comparing how much blank space different artists leave around a dog or a bird is interesting. Led by the pictures, I’ve sniffed along meandering paths online, and all through this exhibition their traces remain. 

This exhibition's for the much-loved artists and their companions: Earl, Billy, Basil, Molly, Monte, Spot, Seal, Flora, Stimpy, Rupert, Tilly, Melman, Naughtie, Miku, Rosie, Wendy Wu, Ju Ju, Emitt, Pippie and Billie.

It’s also for people who don’t know much about art, but know what they like: animals.