REMBRANDT VAN RHINO- CONSIDERING CLIMATE IN PAUL WRIGHT'S NEW SOLO EXHIBITION

Published: 3 March 2020


I was present at Greta Thunberg's Youth Strike 4 Climate rally along Bristol's hilly Park Street
recently. I was also present last year when Extinction Rebellion sat down on Lambeth Bridge
as defiant climate activists. This is the reality of our times, but I like to dream as well. I like
to dream that no matter how persuasive the arguments for recolonization were at The
Design Museum's brilliant Moving to Mars exhibition which ended last week, that there is
no Planet B to escape the damage we have done to our Earth. I like to dream that we can
repair and rebuild, to preserve and restore before we look elsewhere. I also (as many
irrationally anxious Westerners do) have dreams where I'm going to be eaten alive by a
tiger.


My fear of being mauled to death by a cat I will never come across (beyond the safety of a
zoo) is something I reserve for the margins of my mind. I'm sure there's plenty of meaning
behind it all, but I'll leave that for Dr.Freud to explain. Rather I'll retreat to the security of
someone else's imagination, Paul Wright's for example, and his latest paintings for his
forthcoming solo exhibition, With Time (which coincidentally features a painting of Sigmund
Freud).


The exhibition looks at, among other themes and subjects, the big cats and species that face
extinction. The very same cats of my dream, those animals we fear and revere in equal
measure. Just like the way we look at our planet. We revere our green earth 'for it's the only
one we know' (to paraphrase the poet Osip Mandelstam), yet we're aware of its majesty
and destructive nature. Recent storms in the UK bringing more devastation to vulnerable
communities, or bush fires in Australia signalling the strength of the elements. However,
this is just an indication of the changing climate we find ourselves in. A climate that will only
be more unpredictable if we don't do something as a collective.


Paul knows this. No doubt his children do too. They feature heavily in his exhibition as well.
So how do we educate our young about the plight of animals we see so regularly in
children's books, that are now facing an untimely end thanks to man's inhumanity? No
doubt Greta will speak to a generation of people that will equip Paul's children and many
more their age to find a better solution for our planet.


That I will never come across a tiger in the wild is not any excuse to avoid my fear of it. The
same is true of climate change and extinction–just because it exists far away (geographically
or in the future) doesn't mean we shouldn't address these issues with the seriousness they
deserve. Paul's paintings of endangered species (tigers, rhinos, elephants etc.) are serious
subjects that deserve as much attention now as the immediacy of his paint suggests.
They're also self-referential, perhaps offering up a comment about the status of painting
today. Is it a dying art form? I think the devil is in the detail – Paul chooses to paint these
animals as though they are a Rembrandt self-portrait, against a mysterious dark
background, introspective and personal. These paintings belong here and this time its
personal.