We are British collaborative artists. We track, paint and photograph endangered species in the wild. For the past 30 years we have been in a conversation with the natural world.
‘I have noticed in my life that all men have a liking for some special animal, tree, plant, or spot on earth … let a man decide upon his favourite animal and make a study of it, learning it’s innocent ways. Let him learn to understand it’s sounds and motions. The animals want to communicate with man.’
Brave Buffalo, Sioux Nation
We first met as fine-art degree students at Central St Martins School of Art in London in 1987. Our initial experiments with drawing on the same peice of paper at the same time came about in the print-room and on small scale sketch book pages. We had been working individually on intricate traditional Japanese box-wood engravings and copper plate etchings and so these small scale experiments made sense and matched our skills. Soon we began to expand both the scale and repertoire of our images. Our first collaborative works were inspired by our essentially urban environments and eclectic interests; boxing, rap-music, tribal voodoo, pit-bull dogs, shooting, floating men, red moose and pink tea cups. In a short space of time we realised we liked working together this way even if our college did not. We had become a team.
Our collaboration began in earnest during our Sophomore scholarship to Syracuse University in New York. Here we first discovered Native American art and learned of the Mohawk/Iroquois belief in ‘animals as brothers’. This ethos would have a profound impact on us both and remains our key subject to this day
Inspired by this conservation wisdom and our first journeys together in the North American wilderness, we were struck by a simple realisation; if we wanted to truly understand and document the nature of wild animals we needed to get out of our urban comfort zone and make our work where they lived.
We immersed ourselves in expedition planning. We began by researching the remote regions we aimed to visit in the map room at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Step by step we identified and then trained to learn the skills we would need to make our work in extreme environments and in independent isolation for months at a time. Tracking, remote region medicine, scuba-diving, and wilderness survival would become as essential to our practice as the selection of art materials and papers. During this period Olly trained and qualified as a Combat Medic in the British Army Reserve and worked as a professional diving instructor.
When you fully commit to going down a new and uncertain path things you never anticipated open up to you. We were fortunate to meet a range of generous and inspiring individuals, patrons and sponsors who believed in our mission and helped us in those early years achieve our goals.
In 1994 we took a step into the unknown, gave up our London studio and embarked on ten year period of extended art-making expeditions. Our passion for painting together combined with our quest for adventure would take us to remote Arctic, desert, ocean and jungle habitats on all 7 continents to track, dive with and paint the most endangered creatures on the planet. Our commitment to our wild subjects was cemented in the field. The bush had become our studio. In 2004 Abrams in New York published a 267 page artist monograph about this period entitled; Olly and Suzi: Arctic, Desert, Ocean, Jungle with an introduction by Clive James.
Today we combine both a studio and wilderness practice. Our work still represents our original mutual passion for documenting and understanding the plight of the natural world. In this regard we have become passionate conservationists. Our work is held in private and public collections worldwide including; the Damien Hirst collection and the Natural History Museum in London where we had a year long show in 2001-2002. In 2009 BBC "Storyville" commissioned and screened an hour long documentary film about our work in the wild. We are proud ambassadors for Leica cameras and binoculars, gear we have used and trusted in the wild for many years and founder members of Champagne G.H.Mumm "Cordon Rouge" explorers club.
"Their interest in nature is poetic and innocent, rather than melodramatic and pumped up. What I like about their produce is the way it seeks to preserve a sense of nature's delicacy and preciousness."
Waldemar Januszczak, Sunday Times.