Purdy Hicks Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by Australian artist Leila Jeffreys.
Comprising fifteen new portraits of pigeons, each of startling grace and elegance, Ornithurae (bird tails in Greek) challenges the often unfavourable appreciation of this particular bird.
Jeffreys continues to reconstruct our perceptions of birds by pairing up two different bird families: the universally loved cockatoo with the columbine (pigeons and doves). While the cockatoo is viewed as an iconic Australasian bird - the pigeon is almost universally ignored.
Tim Low (Australian best-selling author, naturalist) has written, to accompany the works, a wonderful article entitled Reconsider the Pigeon. He writes: ‘We should not take pigeons for granted. To pigeonhole them as urban scroungers does them an injustice. Australian bird photographer Leila Jeffreys has taken it on herself to show them as they truly are, as beings with the power to surprise. Everything alive is essentially a mystery, and pigeons, with their extraordinary mental and physical powers, are more mysterious than most. They were domesticated thousands of years ago long before chickens or ducks, which makes them the bird on earth to which we have the longest close relationship. Pigeons matter.’
In the search for a conscientious way to photograph birds Leila Jeffreys has developed a photographic practice where she is able to convey the beauty and individuality of each of her ‘sitters’. Her ornithological knowledge and extensive travel are intrinsic to her work with endangered species, yet she sees the process simply as “one animal photographing another”.
Each of her images reveals the subtle details of the animals’ robes, while displaying a phenomenal spectrum of colours and nuances the human eye can only appreciate within the stillness of her photographs.
‘Through a unique combination of technical skill, ingenuity, patience and empathy, Leila creates objects of art that are luxurious visual pleasures in themselves. By abstracting her subjects from their accustomed context, she demands focus on form, composition and colour. Stark and warm, objective and celebratory at the same time, her photographs not only enhance our personal surroundings by their own decorative presence, but expand our joyous understanding of the world we inhabit, yes customarily see so incompletely in the short time allowed to us.’
Dr Sarah Engledow, Historian (National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia)