Upcoming exhibition 4 April to 15 May 2019 at Gallery 25, Edith Cowan University, Mount Lawley Campus, Perth

Drawing Physiognomy: The Complete Zoomorphic Archive

A catalogue essay or exegesis supporting the exhibition is available for download as a PDF file on reserchgate.net

first roll of copper plate etchings printed at QCA print-studio for the exhibition Drawing Physiognomy: The Complete Zoomorphic Archive in Edith Cowan’s Gallery 25 in Perth.

first roll of copper plate etchings printed at QCA print-studio for the exhibition Drawing Physiognomy: The Complete Zoomorphic Archive in Edith Cowan’s Gallery 25 in Perth.

One of the most pervasive and persistent ways that humans seek to find meaning in their physiognomic structure is through comparisons with the form and characteristics of non-human animals. The power of a lion, the majestic grace of a thoroughbred horse, the deceptive delights of a mocking bird or insidious nature of a poisonous gecko can all be projected into the character of a human by a graphic zoomorphism that aligns each of the respective animal physiognomies with a human face to create or imply resemblance.  

This exhibition demonstrates the tenacity of this process in the most exhaustive way by presenting over eighty such human/animal comparisons. These derive from the original zoomorphic images of Giambattista Della Porta in the sixteenth century, and the influential versions by Charles Le Brun in the seventeenth century, through to the contemporary comparisons of dog owners and their pets along with familiar internet memes aligning celebrity physiognomies with various animals.

Such zoomorphism has always been seen as amusingly frivolous compared to the later development of anthropomorphism where artists such as J. J. Grandville in the nineteenth century and Walt Disney in the twentieth century managed to convince global audiences that animals, beneath their outward physiognomy, were really people.

The significant time invested in recreating this illusory universe, using that demanding form of material production, etching and aquatint, is not only to expose the importance of the graphic enterprise in making real the intuition that “the great chain of being” exists and humans are but part of a singular animal kingdom but also to signify its fictional and fantastic dimension.

The final counterpoint to the exhibition includes the images that demonstrate the power of art to influence science but often through a negative process of misinterpretation or misrepresentation by reading art as evidence.

The exhibition will feature close to 100 etchings, all being printed on running sheets of heavy rag-paper that will ring the entire circumference of the Gallery.

Some of the individual plates are shown below:

Human and animal resemblance  Five copper-plate etchings each c. 45 x 20 cm.

Human and animal resemblance Five copper-plate etchings each c. 45 x 20 cm.

Human and animal resemblance  Five copper-plate etchings each c. 45 x 20 cm.

Human and animal resemblance Five copper-plate etchings each c. 45 x 20 cm.

To create a continuous eight-metre sheet of etchings on an etching press with a bed only 1.5 metres long you need: four printmakers, a sky-rig, and about four hours of wiping plates and setting and resetting the press. (photography by Jonathan Tse ) Queensland College of Art Printmaking Studios.

The final roll coming off the press. This completes over 40 metres of running wall sheets of etchings. (photography Blair Coffey)

The final roll coming off the press. This completes over 40 metres of running wall sheets of etchings. (photography Blair Coffey)

The sheet hoisted up to dry.

The sheet hoisted up to dry.

Copyright © Ross Woodrow --All Rights Reserved