2013 by Chris Otley
The Other Art Fair 2013; http://www.chrisotley.com
There is something in black and white drawings of animals that stops the dreaded element of ‘twee’ creeping in. Perhaps it’s the subconscious association with anatomical drawings, which science relied on before photography, or the romance of the old role of the artist on historical explorations. Otley is certainly taken with this historical notion of documentation, as he quotes Robert Hooke (1665) on the excellence and curiosity of nature on the back of his postcards. It is this excellence of Nature that will continue to ‘manifest’, as Hooke states, and that Otley looks to convey through his detailed drawings, building upon our fascination by freezing Nature’s marvels in front of us for examination. Every scale of a fish is picked out, every feather on a bird; in Shoebill the texture is so acute one feels themselves reaching out to touch it. The monotone of the soft pencil comes across slightly dated, documentary, reinforcing the feeling of history and the fact that most of these species have been around far longer than us. To marvel at nature is to marvel at its force and adaptability over time, which Otley’s large and impressive drawings remind us to do. Documentation began with the artist and nature continues to spawn art as our fascination continues.