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Artist goes to bat for hangers-on

Archibald Prize finalist and Aboriginal artist Blak Douglas is championing the Sydney fruit bat in a new exhibition by four contemporary Australian artists showcasing Australia’s native species and other animals.

‘Something Else is Alive: Sydney and the Animal Instinct’ will be on show until February 22 at Customs House.

Blak Douglas, or Adam Hill, has titled his work ‘Hung out to Fry’. It captures the beauty of the Sydney fruit bat, a male totem of the Boorooberongal males in Western Sydney.

“Several years ago, I learned of the major importance of this supreme mammal to not only the ecosystem but to the Aboriginal Nations of the Sydney basin,” Douglas said.

“Also, I MC’d a protest concert held in Hyde Park regarding the State Government’s plans to eradicate the totems from the Botanic Gardens.

“They were then viewed as pests of plague proportions and were to be blasted with industrial noise through loud speakers.

“Of course the biggest killer in the urban centres are power lines. Frequently the creatures zap themselves whilst clawing for the second power line and immediately fry themselves in a puff of smoke as upwards of 69,000 volts pass through their small bodies.”

Douglas said he was walking in Redfern in January when he came across a fruit bat that had been zapped during the night.

“He’s fallen cleanly to the road below and remained in a peaceful sleeping position on his back,” he said.

“I immediately envisioned this opportunity. To cast him and immortalise him in bronze, as the government does with famed Colonials. So I collected him in a fruit box and promptly placed him in the freezer.

“I then tracked down one of Sydney’s leading mould-makers to assist me in the incredibly delicate process of moulding the torso. After some weeks and much trial and error and abhorrent odours, we arrived at the mould worthy of pursuing the first suite of moulded resin pieces.”

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