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Learning from lockdown – a chance to reflect, a chance to create, a chance to make a difference.

If you popped into the Gallery in June last year, you may have been lucky enough to catch a view of works by exciting young artist Kieran Page. We’re pretty chuffed that he’s back again – and that his new Endangered Species Collection is exclusive to the Mill Tye.

If you’re able, do come to the Gallery to see them in person (all the covid hygiene procedures are in place), but if not take a look at them on our online shop:

Great to look, but also, what fantastic gifts these limited-edition prints would make! 10% of the proceeds from each purchase will go to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – and obviously, it would be great to make as much as possible for them.

The pandemic has imposed restrictions for everyone and has been a harsh reminder of the fragility of life.

For animals, this is nothing out of the ordinary. Containment, control and threat are a constant danger. Habitats are stripped away by deforestation; hunting poses a threat to life; and freedom of movement is restricted as natural surroundings are hacked away.

Kieran’s latest work, which he started during lockdown, communicates this message. He has chosen wildlife on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list to create The Endangered Species Collection.

We spoke to Kieran about his collection, comprising 22 new portraits of species ranging from near threatened to critically endangered.

Mill Tye: How did the new collection come about?

“I already had a series on endangered animals in Borneo and Sumatra. During lockdown, I had time to reflect on previous projects and used the period of quiet to shape what I wanted to do next. Nothing came easy as my creative motivation was going through a dip.

“In an attempt to stimulate my creativity, I turned my attention to experimenting with oven bake clay – a material which was very new to me and made me think a bit differently. I started with preliminary sculptural sketches before using the clay, like 3rd angle orthographic sketches. When the clay didn't work out, these drawings and the sculptural way of thinking informed my work on the collection. This is why the portraits in the collection are presented in more of a 3-dimensional way, compared with my previous pieces.

“I tried to cover a wide cross section of animals. Some well-known for being endangered (Orangutan and Elephant); a few also well-known but could come as a surprise to some that they are endangered (Koalas); and some more obscure (Russian Desman).

“Strangely, the rocky creative path I experienced led to the biggest – and probably best - project I’ve done to date.”

MT: What messages of endangerment are portrayed in the portraits?

“So, I’ve written the IUCN red list code on each piece. For example, the Hainan Gibbon is coded ‘CR’ which means critically endangered. There are just 28 of these amazing creatures remaining in the whole world, making it the most critically endangered primate.

“Each code is written in black pen on top of a silver chrome pen ink swirl which gives a metallic effect. By having the metallic shine from the silver chrome pen, it draws attention to the letters, but the subtleness of the silver against the bold black lines and vibrant green background, means it doesn’t take away from the main subject.

“I’ve also used negative space. This means that there is a degree of transparency in the creatures with the background showing through them. This does several things. It conveys the deep connection the species have with their environments – how they are inextricably linked in nature and how fragile those ecosystems are. The negative space also represents their fading away – their disappearance.

“There is a nod to the concept of collector cards. These used to be extremely popular, but the rarer each one was, the more likely it was to be traded as a high price. Just like the endangered species. I’ve illustrated each one as a bust - to give the impression of the animal being a hunting trophy.”

MT: What techniques have you used in the process?

“I’ve used spray-paint for the background. Unintentionally, it gives the impression of wildlife photography where the background recedes, giving a ‘bokeh’ (blurred background) effect.

“I’m a bit of a pen nerd and enjoy using them where possible in my work. For the fine detail in the portraits, I used technical drawing pens which were passed down to me from my grandad. These are the crème de la crème of pens because the high percentage of pigment in the ink allows the pens to draw on various paints. For the nice bold, black outlines on each portrait, I used a Molotow acrylic paint pen – giving a striking frame to each animal. Then I scanned in the portraits and layered them onto the spray-painted backgrounds.”

MT: How will your work be available?

“As the Mill Tye Gallery has been really supportive of my work, I’ve made this series exclusive to them. They are displaying the original artwork, 10 portraits in A6 and 12 in A5 which are for sale.

“And, there is also a selection of prints available in different sizes.

“I really hope people will enjoy the pictures, and that their reflections will also strengthen the resolve to support wildlife habitats and species at risk of extinction. 10% of the cost of each piece of work bought will be going to the WWF fund.”

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