A very rare bird by Joan Ross - 2018 | Michael Reid Gallery

Joan Ross
A very rare bird, 2018

hand-painted digital collage
113 x 83cm (framed dimensions)
edition of 8 + 2AP

Companion work:
Port Jackson Painter: “Blue and White Crow”, native name “Karrook” 1788 and 1797, 30.9 x 21.1 cm, watercolour, 145 from the Watling Collection. The drawing is annotated in ink at bottom, in varying hands and colours, “Natural size April – Native name Karrook, a rare Bird”. This bird was more recently identified as the Magpie-Lark, Grallina cyanoleuca by noted orthologous Keith Hindwood (1970).

Thomas Watling (c1767-1797) convict forger, artist and collector of other people’s drawings, notes; “It is a rare bird, the third only that we have seen; the colours are much too dull” * He was wrong. The Magpie-Lark, not the “Blue and White Crow” as believed, is far from rare. There is a dark-comedy in this colonial assumption which is symptomatic of the wider colonising mindset and many of its disastrous outcomes.

Mistakes get made and Ross highlights in this work not their happening – as they do happen too frequently – but our need to acknowledge them. Ross offers this moment of Colonial myopia as a lesson.

* R Bowdler Sharpe: The History of Collections Contained in the Natural History Departments of the British Museum, Page 120, London, 1906

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