Board Games

Artworks informed by research into Victorian era board games which were often used to promote the propaganda and acceptable behaviour of the day.

Zoonotic Viral Spillover

Archival digital print on Hahnemühle 300gsm paper, hand coloured with watercolour, 40 x 50 cms

In this ‘game’ one of the theories of how new viruses end up infecting humans, when they had previously just been circulating harmlessly among bats is explained.
Deforestation in rainforests, to make way for intensive farming for global demand for cheap food, leads to the bats leaving their home and setting up nearer to humans. They then pass the virus onto other animals who are even closer to humans, such as domestic animals, or those exploited and packed in in unnatural environments, such as those in wet markets or the fur trade. These animals are much closer to humans and the virus eventually jumps to them. A simplistic explanation of what is a deeply complex problem, at the heart of which seems to be an exploitation of the natural world and its resources to mainly satisfy the greed of consumerist societies. Reading up about the potential to release ‘mindboggling numbers of viruses’ if we continue along the path we are heading, really hit home, and shows how important the natural world and our relationship with it is. ‘Emissaries of Hope and Possibility’ (below) is a more light-hearted look at human relationships with animals during this pandemic, where as this one has a more urgent and serious message highlighting the possible consequences if we do not act now. The original antique board games are usually hand coloured lithographs, so I wanted to mimic this look by hand colouring, digital prints with watercolours. This means each print is unique and may vary slightly.

Emissaries of Hope and Possibility

Archival digital print on Hahnemühle 300gsm paper, hand coloured with watercolour, 40 x 50 cms

This print is based on Victorian era board games, which were often used to promote the propaganda and acceptable behaviour of the day.
The images in the ovals, which make up the route for the game, depict various stories that appeared on social media and the news, fake and real, of wildlife taking over during the coronavirus pandemic in areas usually full of humans.Many turned out to be fake and were debunked, my favourite being that lions had been deployed on the streets of Russia by Putin to keep people in check!The title comes from a New York Times article about animals re-wilding our cities on social media. There were also several articles doing the rounds about whether many of these stories were fake or real, and if it mattered. They were spreading feelings of hope during a desperate time, and many gave glimpses of what a post-covid world could look like if we took the lessons on board.I had come across one of the Victorian games, the Swan of Elegance, not long before the pandemic began, and loved the visual language and social messages. It is a Game-board in the shape of a swan with 31 numbered pictorial compartments, each showing a child engaged in a moral or an immoral deed, explained in the rule book. There are medallions at each corner, representing Apollo, Minerva, Wisdom and Genius.Much of my work looks at anthrozoologic relationships (interactions between humans and other animals), and all these stories that kept cropping up fascinated me, as much as from a sociological perspective as an animal lover. The moral and immoral deeds became fake or real animal stories, and the medallions became social media icons.The story of the goats taking over Llandudno in Wales was one of my favourites, and probably one of the best known, as it reached a worldwide audience. It seemed to connect with many people, so I decided to use the Kashmiri goat (the type of goats in Llandudno) as my main animal ‘board’. It also casts quite an iconic figure, and once I had finished it, I realised it reminded me of ‘The Scapegoat’ By William Holman Hunt, which depicts the “scapegoat” described in the Book of Leviticus. – On the day of atonement,a goat would have its horns wrapped with a red cloth – representing the sins of the community – and be driven off. The link to this was a total unconscious decision, but all fits in nicely with the subject and imagery.

Wanderers In The Re-Wilderness

Hand coloured digital print 420 x 594 mm

This print is based on the board game ‘Wallis’s New Game of Wanderers in the Wilderness’ published in the early 19th century, a hand coloured geographical race game describing the wonders to be found in South America. My version describes an imagined vision of a re-wilded Britain, with wolves, bears, bison, lynx and more!