Debbie Symons’ new body of works features intimate portraits of native species housed within the Melbourne Museum’s collection. The paintings utilise techniques reminiscent of early colonial documentation, with images exploring the subject’s unique characteristics. However, instead of illustrating species within the ‘landscape’, the portraits identify themselves as taxidermied animals with their collection tags, labels, or polystyrene supports included in the pictorial space.


Symons’ works are void of trimmings documented in the works of 18th-century artists John Gould, Edward Lear, George Kearsley Shaw, and Helena Forde, and instead present the viewer with a still and silent portrait. Numerous species documented so richly during the colonial ‘discovery’ period are registered as critically endangered in the wild. The works ponder and tease at the links between colonialism and the extinction crisis we find ourselves in.