Extinction Studies is a twelve-month investigative art performance that Lucienne began in September 2019 at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). Intended to last 12 months (the project is currently on hold due to the forced closure of the gallery as COVID-19 re-writes life as we know it), Lucienne draws an intricate and laboured image every day of a recently extinct plant or animals species. Her beautiful and time consuming work is then erased the following day ahead of a new drawing beginning in the imprint of those that came before. This process of drawing and erasure, or evolution and extinction, is repeated in full knowledge that the paper will deteriorate and eraser shavings will accumulate.
Open Journal: Can you tell us a little about your journey in terms of your background (education, upbringing, influences) that has led to where you are as an artist today?
Lucienne Rickard: My art journey started very early. My mother says that I was an incredibly easy child to look after because all she had to do was give me some paper and pencils. Apparently I would sit quietly by myself for hours and just draw. I do remember being fascinated by it, obsessed even. I always drew, and so when I had to decide what to do after school I didn’t really consider anything seriously besides art school. I graduated from the Queensland College of Art (Gold Coast campus) with a BVA, then decided I needed a new environment. I moved to Hobart to do my honours then PhD in Fine Art. I loved the close knit arts community in Hobart, and the smaller scale of living, so have lived here since 2002. I consider myself a Tasmanian artist.
As far as my influences I think I’m a little unusual. I love other contemporary artist’s work, such as Tracey Emin, Heather B Swann and Pat Brassington, but I wouldn’t say that they influence what I make. I’m inspired more by the way they conduct themselves as artists. I love that they take risks, make themselves vulnerable in their work, and draw on themes that aren’t always considered the territory of female artists.
OJ: Before the sad closure of TMAG you were nearing the halfway mark in your Extinction Studies. Has the first 6 months informed changes in your process or the way you think about the work and the natural world issues it represents?
LR: So I’m almost exactly half way through Extinction Studies, and the project has been full of surprises. I thought it would be arduous, depressing and a struggle to carry on every day. It’s actually been the opposite. The subject matter of extinction is of course still sad, and at times depressing, but the interactions I get to have with the public working at TMAG have actually made it mostly quite uplifting. Most people I speak to express real concern for our endangered species, and most want to do something about it.
There have been changes to the way I think about the project. I assumed it would be relatively short conversations with people, and that the drawing would be the main focus. It’s been the opposite. Some days I’ll end up talking more than drawing. The conversations have revealed themselves to be the most important part of what I’m doing. The drawing has become just a way to entice people to talk to me, then its all about broaching the issue of extinction and doing my best to inform and share what knowledge I’ve gathered. Unfortunately the project hasn’t changed my opinion of the real world issues that I’m working with. I think it’s one of those topics that gets bigger the more you look into it. The more I research and learn about the current rapid rate of extinctions, particularly in Australia, the more I realise we aren’t doing enough. Sometimes it seems insurmountable, but that’s no reason not to try and effect some kind of change.
OJ: You’ve been known to refer to artists as “communicators.” With an ability to articulate and bring attention to important issues. How do you hope your Extinction Studies will achieve this?
LR: My hope for ES as a communication tool is that it will simply make people aware of what’s happening. There is so much information out there that scientists and conservationists have been gathering for a very long time but they simply don’t have access to platforms that “regular” people will interact with. The way in which they communicate, the language and statistics, probably don’t hit home with most people. I’m trying to translate all that information into something accessible.
“Everyone can understand a realistic drawing, and they can understand and feel the loss in me erasing it. If they can then go on to think about the loss of extinction then I’m doing my job.”