The series of uncompromising paintings ‘Moving Pictures’ attempts to dignify the farm animals we exploit, by bearing witness to their suffering. Whereas people will often look away from photographs of disturbing and barbaric scenes, when they are presented as art, the viewer has an entirely different relationship with the image.
SARX: Animal rights artist, Philip McCulloch-Downs, explains the message behind his powerful and provocative artwork.
Q: What is an animal rights artist? How did you become one?
A: Following my illustration degree (from Leicester Poly) I worked in graphic design and continually created paintings and models, but without any real sense of purpose. This lasted about a decade, and then I decided I needed to add value and meaning to my life, and so I began volunteering at a local animal rights charity. This immediately affected the subject matter of my personal artwork, and for the next decade I indulged in writing and illustrating imaginative novels that addressed the issues of animal rights, human greed, overpopulation, pollution, etc. It was one of these illustrations that unexpectedly became the catalyst for all that I now do. This life-changing painting was for a short story about the future of the meat industry, and it was called ‘The Ghost Camera’. I decided to use the animal rights photographer Jo-Anne McArthur as the central figure in the piece, as she had been the inspiration behind the story. She is one of the heroes of the AR movement, and I wanted to send her the portrait as a surprise gift. When I did, Jo was moved to tears, posted the image on social media and this unleashed a wave of praise and support from thousands of people. I was dumbstruck! In a single moment all my painting practice, writing skills, knowledge of animal rights issues, and vegan life choices suddenly combined together. The decision was easy to make, it felt completely right.
Q: What message do you wish to communicate?
A: My series of uncompromising paintings ‘Moving Pictures’ attempts to dignify the farm animals we exploit, by bearing witness to their suffering. I record their situation within the appalling world of factory farming, and I portray each individual creature with accuracy, empathy and compassion. Whereas people will often look away from photographs of disturbing and barbaric scenes, when they are presented as art, the viewer has an entirely different relationship with the image. They have a far better chance than photographs of intriguing the viewer and drawing them in. The horror is safely encased in a medium that works as a ‘filter’ between reality and the viewer, and if my work can catch and hold the attention, then hopefully empathy will follow, as well as the openness to learn more about the work. Put simply, I want to confront the viewer with the truth. I want my art to bring the hidden individuals out of the darkness of their sheds, farrowing crates, concrete stalls, and airless barns, out into the light. SOURCE…