Lightbox is pleased to present 'Eye of the Bovine', a growing collaborative show by Sabina Rizos-Shaw and Siân Stephens, on until the 11th of October and curated by Melina Payne.
'Eye of the Bovine' is an exploration of a satirical approach to activism through multi-media art about the ethical conundrum of animal agriculture, drawing from Rhydian Thomas's not-so-fictitious universe of Milk Island.
Beginning with Siân's milk carton, Siân and Sabina will take turns producing an artwork for Lightbox. This will see Lightbox slowly fill with more work as time progresses, creating a dialogue between the two artist's practices.
About the artists:
Siân Stephens is a painter and video artist whose practice explores the unseen and disturbing realities of animal agriculture. The underlying tone of the work is activism based, and the subject matter is an honest display of the unnatural experiences of cattle in the process leading up to beef and milk appearing on the supermarket shelves. All the work is made in the hope that, if discovered through a visual art platform, the viewer is inspired to re-evaluate their relationship with the animals that are so lavishly used as resources; a truthful and confronting appeal for compassion, through large scale oil paintings and graphic video art. A desire to open critical discussion on how the consumption of animal bi-products became normalised, is the artist’s foremost intention.
Sabina Rizos-Shaw is a Wellington based artist who recently finished a Fine Arts Honours degree at Massey University. Her practice is focused around textiles, painting and sculpture. She uses the process of creating to work through personal feelings, employing humour and a certain mediation to obscure sincere undertones, aided by her use of a bright, naïve aesthetic. Often the work is somewhat a pastiche. She enjoys exploring themes of construction and articulation of the self, construction and articulation of artworks, overcoming trauma, as well as performance and viewer participation.
In response, Sarah Robinson writes:
Me: “What do you think about the dairy industry in New Zealand?”
Most people: “I don’t know… I’ve never really thought about it before, I guess.”
A fairly innocuous question, but perhaps it’s a little more than that. For most people, we know the dairy industry exists and we know it’s a huge part of Aotearoa’s economy and livelihood, but I’d hazard a guess that not a lot of us think about it beyond this. I know I don’t.
Eye of the Bovine encourages us to think a little more closely about this all-important, true-blue, hard-yakka Kiwi industry, the choices we make that relate to it and the assumptions we hold about it. It’s not an attempt at sermon, lecture, criticism or guilt-trip; it’s an invitation to a conversation about the ethical conundrum of animal agriculture. The works’ satirical and extreme nature is intended to draw attention to issues that should be more widely talked about and acknowledged: the animal ‘other’ and the female body, exploitation, trauma, consent, national identity and the importance we place on this industry, nationalism and capitalism, the normalization of certain practices in Aotearoa, and the perceived ‘need’ for dairy products and the lengths we go to to have them.
Sian and Sabina’s styles are very different, Sabina uses textiles, sculpture and painting to bring her ideas to life, while Sian employs painting and video to express hers. Sian’s works are often beautifully crafted but fundamentally difficult to look at. Sabina’s are subversive and ironic, pulling viewers in to a new state of mind, an alternative way of looking at things. The juxtaposition and accumulation of the works is itself a conversation; the artists speak to each other and respond to each subsequent work with another of their own, thereby continuing the conversation beyond the different media they use. The artworks themselves are also a point of conversation; you may love or hate them, or you may remain indifferent, who knows.They are designed to be humorous and satirical in a way that makes art and activism simultaneously accessible and profound, and we hope that, at the very least, they incite something in you - maybe just an internal dialogue or maybe one that you share with others, that’s up to you.
Sian and Sabina’s collaboration is born out of a desire to address the above issues, as well as a mutual understanding and wariness of the industry and what it means for the animals at the center of it. Working together previously on several projects, this topic arose naturally for the pair. Sian’s interest in the rights of cows spans three years and extends to of her wider practice, while Sabina’s interest in satirical art brought her onto the scene just a few months ago; the works are inspired by Rhydian Thomas’s Milk Island and their own personal perspectives on cows, art and activism.
After working together on a group show, Atom Heart Mother, these ideas became a conversation and have further developed into Eye of the Bovine. The works are a nod to both Thomas’s intriguing and illuminating collection of stories, and an exploration of their own agri-sentiments. It is now our turn to take part in this conversation, thinking perhaps a little more critically about how we engage with dairy in New Zealand. At the same time, though, maybe you don’t want to think more critically, maybe you already are or maybe you’re happier not thinking about it at all. Either way, you’ll hopefully think about your response to my opening question and to these artworks, and maybe that’s enough. The point is: this exhibition doesn’t seek to shock or disgust people into agreeing with the artists, it seeks to draw out your own personal and organic reactions and leave you to fill in the blanks. Or to talk about it with others, and spread that seed far and wide.
As the conversation progresses, and as each new work is added, I’ll write a little something here in response. Please feel free to do the same by submitting feedback in whatever way you see fit, by using the hashtag #ilovemilkymoo. Remember that the cows won’t ever get this opportunity, so it could be up to you to speak for them.