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"BIN CHICKEN?!?" Not on my watch, bitches!

Updated: Mar 23

A few years ago I started a painting. It was based on George Seurat’s famous A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Seurat was a pointillist, he painted with tiny dots. This painting took him years. It required precision and control. Gross.




In my interpretation of the work, I threw paint with wild delight. I applied it like butter. I made the colours scream. It had no destination that I was aware of. Chaos reigned:



I included several animals in my work: animals that represented the antithesis of control: a polar bear (the cuddliest of sociopathic killers), a cassowary (the disembowelling assassin), a snake (Eve’s Wikipedia), a pig (all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others), a hare (“fuck you, tortoise!”). And you’ll notice - at the centre foreground – stands an ibis:



This painting was always on hanging around on my purgatory shelf where works in progress sit in detention to have a good long think about themselves. When people would visit, they usually responded to this painting in several ways – confusion, astonishment, or with a polite nod. However, most people would remark on the ibis, with either fondness or scorn (but never indifference). The term “bin chicken” was used liberally around this painting, as it has been around this country.



Though I never showed it, I found myself getting increasingly bothered by that term, but I couldn’t work out why. And the more I heard the term, the more my annoyance at it grew. I still couldn’t put my finger on it. Then 2020 happened; pandemic, lockdown, apocalypse, etc. We all started losing the plot. I lost my job, and had never been financially poorer. As someone who’s dealt with mental illness chronically and occasionally acutely though my life, I was prepared for a pandemic-induced emotional tsunami. However, the tsunami never happened. My plot was anything but lost – in fact, I became uncharacteristically stable and relatively functional. I even blossomed: creativity, attention to my well-being, and sobriety (fortuitously I couldn’t afford intoxicants) coalesced into what became a period of enlightenment.


That’s when I first truly understood what resilience was. I had it. It was a superpower that I’d never noticed.


Tenaciously, I used my newly-noticed resilience and adaptability to make use of the time and solitude that were obliged whilst locked down. I built benches; I tiled a feature wall in my bathroom. As my studio was out-of-bounds, my creativity had to happen at home. It found its voice as I taught myself Photoshop.


This is when The Ibis majestically emerged from my id. I suddenly understood it in a different way. The source of my annoyance at others’ mockery at this splendid creature became obvious. I wrote this:



The Australian White Ibis

Is an environmental refugee

That is met by some with visceral disgust.

It is not traditionally beautiful; instead,

It is resilient, tenacious, and fearless.

An indomitable spirit.



Obviously, ibises aren’t offended by the term, unless they have a comprehension of English that is as yet undiscovered. Ibises are too busy surviving, adapting, thriving.


But in this case, it is the thought that counts.


What if we referred to homeless people as bin monkeys?


When environmentalists want to raise money for their causes (as they should), they depict endangered species that are large, visible, cuddly, aesthetically pleasing, Insta-worthy, and have pop appeal: Bengal tigers, African lions, giant pandas, bald eagles, harp seals and penguins. You get the picture. These are appropriately (and amusingly) termed charismatic megafauna.


But what about the others?


There are some creatures that we stigmatise. They might bother or terrify us. We might laugh at them or kill them.


However, they have their place in Australia today, and they contribute to us and to the ecosystem.


They have attributes that we can admire and learn from.


My new series emerged.


The title became obvious.


I am delighted to present to you “Uncharismatic fauna”:





















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