This series of works has the rabbit as a central concept and explores the diametrically opposed viewpoints which people hold about rabbits Traditionally, rabbits are associated with for example fertility, good luck, desire, and procreation. They are also sought after as the perfect domestic pet, easily looked after. Cuddly, loving, cute, lucky.
Conversely they are seen as unclean (according to Jewish law), and as environmental pests reducing the regeneration of native plants, competing with native animals for food. damaging or destroying cultural sites, causing soil erosion and contributing to land degradation over vast areas.
The first paintings in this series began with the idea of painting Melbourne’s iconic Exhibition Building initially constructed in the 1880s and in 1901 housing the first Parliament of Australia. The construction of the building coincided with the rapid increase in the European rabbit population initially introduced in Victoria in the 1850s by Thomas Austin who released a handful of European wild rabbits on his estate in western Victoria for hunting. By 1920 it is thought there were 10 billion rabbits in Australia as they bred rapidly and faced few of their traditional diseases or predators. The use of myxomatosis to control the rabbit plagues was advocated in 1934, by Dame Jean MacNamara A full-scale release of the the myxomatosis virus was performed in 1950.
As a small child living in rural Victoria, I have vivid memories of rabbits with myxomatosis, most notably the symptoms included blindness. The figure in the painting gravitates above the rabbits and the Exhibition building both of which can be seen as symbols of colonialism. Perhaps this figure is me as a child in a dreamlike state fainting from seeing the frightening appearance of rabbits with their white eyes, blinded by the virus? Or perhaps she is a ghost like Dame Jean McNamara reflecting on a virus that in itself was symbolican attempt to remedy the negligence of and another devastating outcome of early settlement and colonisation.