RAFT Art Space, Alice Springs. 9 - 31 October 2020
FERALS is a bold and experimental creative inquiry into the connections and parallels between the artistic practice of Zak Tilley, a white person living and working in the Central Desert region of Australia, and invasive species of feral animals that are now pervasive in the area. The project embodies Zak’s investigation of conflicting ideas of identity, belonging, and otherness against an intimate but necessarily colonial relationship with the Australian landscape. FERALS documents Zak’s reflection on the complex and interwoven relationship between place and practice as he attempts to sensitively and respectfully work on Arrernte Country, in Mparntwe, Alice Springs, and throughout Central Australia.
Through FERALS, Zak critiques his own ethical conflicts as a white artist practicing on Indigenous land, drawing analogies between his presence on Country and introduced species found in Central Australia. Feral horses, dogs, camels, bulls and cats are painted either alive, killing native and often protected species; or dead, unfit to survive in an environment they were not intended for. Zak reflects on his creative career by mirroring his own invasive existence as a settler in Australia in the grim, violent realities of the natural landscape that are the focus of this body of work.
FERALS is a series of large-scale paintings projecting Zak’s very personal view of the Central Desert, defined by classic landscapes defaced with naive spray-painted outlines of invasive species. The works examine the conflict between representation and appreciation of a landscape whose history of removal from its Traditional Owners and Custodians, and subsequent neglect and abuse by colonial settlers, is intertwined with Zak’s own heritage as a white Australian. In FERALS, Zak presents a view of Country irreversibly marked by history using his characteristically confident, energised and gestural style.
“Central Australia has made a huge philosophical impact on my practice. It has made me question my intent and sensitivity when painting. Defacing resolved landscape paintings was hard to do, but that was the point. I wanted to push myself out of a creative practice that I felt was commercially comfortable but somewhat dishonest or exploitative. What you see in the series – classic landscape painting superimposed with bold and incongruous spray-painted animals – is the result of recent self-reflection on my intent and place within the landscape here in Central Australia, mostly on Arrernte Country. It has forced me to question and reflect on my practice which continuously represents my relationship with the Country I am living on. FERALS is no different in that respect, but its comments and ideas produced from the investigation are more confronting than the usually wholesome and nostalgic feel of my work.”