The portrait of one of Raystede’s longest-term residents will hang in this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Ice Cream is a little corella or bare-eyed cockatoo who lives with over 100 other rescue parrots at Raystede’s aviaries sanctuary, near Lewes, East Sussex. Little Corella, painted by artist and QCA member Ann Johnson, was among 1,200 works selected from over 12,000 entries to the 2015 exhibition.
Ann first encountered Ice Cream when she first visited Raystede three years ago. She says: “As I paused by his aviary, he hurried down his walkways to the mesh with the clear intention of communicating. Enchanted by this characterful little bird, I immediately knew I wanted to work creatively with him and his companions.” In September 2014, Ann held a successful exhibition of her aviaries paintings and drawings and several editions of cards have been printed.
Parrots are active, acrobatic and brim with curiosity, bobbing and twirling as they seek to engage with others. This means practical challenges for the artist, necessitating speedy drawing from life over many hours and taking many photographs. Ann says: “Since parrots are brilliant at destroying objects, I work mainly outside the aviaries. If I enter the bird’s space, I stand to exit minus earrings, watch and with a skilfully and swiftly deconstructed iPad! “
Raystede’s feathered residents have a broad range of past histories. Some older birds were trapped in the wild, before 2007 legislation banned the import of wild-caught birds into the EU. Others arrive as regretted impulse buys, as strays – escapees or intentionally abandoned. Among the saddest arrivals are those who have been incarcerated for years in small, barren cages. Others have been much-loved companion birds whose human companions could no longer care for them.
Ann says she has learned much about parrots from aviaries manager Sarah Gorringe – and also from the birds who have much to teach us, if only we let them.
Ann’s drawings of the Raystede parrots will be included in Drawn to Paint, her exhibition with painter Anne de Geus, at the Hop Gallery, Lewes from 20 June-5 July.
Ann Johnson’s web site contains more of her work, including the Parrots project, here.
For more about Raystede please click here.
The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition web site is here.