I was delighted to take part in Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair again this year – albeit a somewhat different event this year as with so many things! This year was fully online, and you could browse the exhibition virtually through the online portal – almost like being there in person! One of the advantages was that wherever in the world you were, you could still ‘visit’.
The pieces I had selected this year were from a series of handcoloured screen prints called ‘Disrupters’, which I created earlier this year. They were inspired by an article I read about an unusual zebra foal that had been spotted (no pun intended!), which was spotty rather than stripey, probably due to a genetic mutation. It was so beautiful and unaware of its uniqueness, I was compelled to look into other animals that we assume will look a particular way, and when they don’t, are utterly mesmerising. These animals are disrupting the normal genetic pattern.
Most new mutations reduce the fitness of their carriers, that is, they are deleterious and will be selected against, so that the vast majority of them will eventually be removed from the population. In rare cases, the mutation is advantageous and is positively selected. Without mutation, which introduces new variation into the population, there can be no selection. I see these animals as pioneers, trying out something new to see if it will succeed. Everything is at stake, life or death. A new ‘look’ could save its species, or, more likely, end with it.
The zebra foal with spots instead of stripes stands out in the crowd, but it is oblivious to its unusual look. Sadly it is likely it will not live beyond its youth, the tried and tested stripy formula of its counterparts as yet creates the strongest herd. Pseudo melanistic tiger – Pseudo-melanism, or abundism, is a variant of pigmentation, characterised by enlarged stripes in the tiger, making it appear darker. The Quinling pandas are a subspecies of the Giant panda. They are found in the Quinling mountains and differ by its smaller skull, light and brown fur and eye spots being under the lower lid rather than around the eyes. The King Cheetah appears to be coming a more common sight (even having its own name to distinguish it from its more spotty usual relatives), a possible explanation being its unusual stripes help it hide better in darker areas. Most of these mutations are thought to be a result of inbreeding.
As populations shrink, and the genetic pool with them, there are less and less opportunities to try out something new, and save themselves from disappearing forever. Hail these pioneers in their last chance saloon.