This suite began with simple head & shoulder portraits of ratty or amateur taxidermist’s mounts. These puzzled, angry, quizzical, funny creatures were the raw material for a new body of work which examined the frozen state of long-dead animals, now verging on the comic rather than the macabre. This project also provided the potential for the fabrication of hard-to-find animals using pieces of beach detritus and actual animal artifacts (skulls, hides, etc.), and mixed-media assemblage techniques. The creature created and depicted this way (Upupa) does not try to hide the artifice or falseness of its construct.
Various sources from Medieval Bestiaries and Celtic Illumination and decoration to Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts have provided the framework for these prints. Translations from the Latin texts of 13th C. Medieval Bestiaries describing common, exotic, and mythical creatures with allegorical and sometimes humorous overtones, are examined and edited to accompany my personal iconography of animal remains and new re-constructed animal forms. The moralizing allegories and anthropomorphic treatment of these animals and their behavior are the crux of my interest in these texts. These tales and misinterpretations can surprise us in their naïveté while often alluding to actual fact, albeit using a completely accidental or misguided methodology. It is this human tendency of making the world serve or reflect our philosophies and beliefs that I find intriguing, especially in the context of a natural history bestiary.
My abbreviated Bestiary affords me the opportunity to combine traditional physical techniques such as photogravure and letterpress. In the resulting portfolio, craft and technique play as strong a role as the content, as in their Medieval predecessors. The photogravure and intaglio plates are printed onto a heavy paper support (Lana Gravure), then text (letterpress) and mixed-media (gold leaf) are added. David Morrish
David Morrish lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario and co-authored with Marlene MacCallum, Copper Plate Photogravure, Focal Press, 2003. Morrish has exhibited traditional copper plate photogravure prints since 1996, nationally and internationally. His artist’s book-works, GAZE and DIED use copper plate photogravure and letterpress under his imprint: DeadCat Press. His recent research explores animal and human mortality, faux biography, provenance, collections, and the museum archive through the construction of an immersive Wunderkammer, The Lyric Cranium.