fig 1. Born Free, Rod McRae, 2013

fig 2. My Bed, Tracey Emin, 2005


Born Free, 2013

About the work:

Born Free 2013, consists of a full grown, full mane Lion rolling upside down as a domestic cat might on a king size bed see (fig 1). Beside him lays his leather collar chained to the bed.
Born Free, borrows its title from the 1966 British film starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers as Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood, and released her into the wilderness of Kenya.

This work explores notions of the ‘wild’ verses subjugation and domestication and poses some uneasy questions about our relationships with species other than ourselves. The unmade disrupted bed conjures Tracey Emin’s My Bed, 2005 (fig 2) and parallels might be made between Emin’s reference to her mental confinement and the physical confinement visited on the lion when chained to the bed.

Lions mark out their territories in what we once referred to as ‘wilderness’ but this wilderness is becoming more increasingly described by words like reserve, park, zone and corridor. The life and often death of large carnivores like Lions in Africa (where this animal body originated) remain ever more subject to human manipulation in these defined sometimes even fenced places.

The Lion, more than any other high end predator, is a rich source of metaphor and symbolism; in C.S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, seven books written between 1949 and 1954, the Lion Aslan becomes a potent symbol for Christ, once sacrificed, he rises from the dead to conquer his enemies.

When making this work I was well aware that Lions and other big cats are traditionally posed in taxidermy to accentuate their fierce and powerful attributes, as trophies to the hunt-always rewarding the hunter. This pose does quite the opposite, reducing the animal to a playful and passive individual.

I referenced the behaviour of my cat in determining the final pose. I think its passivity is very disarming.

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