TOP: Kyogle artist Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara) in her Kyogle studio uses a cyanotype process to make images from dead animals that creates a shape that she then adds to with by painting flowers and nature onto the image.
TOP: Kyogle artist Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara) in her Kyogle studio uses a cyanotype process to make images from dead animals that creates a shape that she then adds to with by painting flowers and nature onto the image. Susanna Freymark

Using dead animals to make art about life and death

TWO dead birds lay with their wings spread on the table in Rebecca Tapscott's freshly painted new studio.

They await a process called cyanotype where the shape of their lifeless bodies is fixed to paper using a chemical mix that includes cyanide.

"I feel sad when I do this," Tapscott said of handling the birds.

 

Kyogle artist Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara) uses a cyanotype process to make images from dead animals.
Kyogle artist Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara) uses a cyanotype process to make images from dead animals. Susanna Freymark

She lays them in position on the paper then takes them outside for five minutes of sunlight.

Here the chemicals react with the sun's rays and create a soft shape of the animal.

"It reacts to the UV light," she said.

Tapscott puts the paper in water to fix the image after their exposure. The animals are carefully wrapped and put in the studio freezer.

The process can sometimes be random, Tapscott said, but she likes the mistakes and sees it as part of the creative process.

 

Kyogle artist Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara) uses a cyanotype process to make images from dead animals.
Kyogle artist Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara) uses a cyanotype process to make images from dead animals. Susanna Freymark

"Lots of people call me up if they see dead animals," she said.

She started with little things, she said, like moths, dragonflies and butterflies.

"Then I found dead lizards in my window sill," she said.

She has 'done' an echidna, possums, kangaroo, a cat and plans to do a horse.

She'd like to do a koala.

"Imagine being an artist-in-residence at a zoo," she said.

The shape the dead animal leaves touches her.

"That void is their absence of life," she said.

"I got into it when I did myself and lost my breast."

Last year, she did her first cyanotype picture the day before she was having the operation to remove her left breast due to cancer.

Tapscott isn't afraid to be frank about her experiences and in her artwork.

"I'm fearless after having cancer," she said.

"My practice is a reflection of life and death."

"Cyanotype has a strong resonance of things that are absent and I add a layer of life."

 

The finished art work by Kyogle artist Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara).
The finished art work by Kyogle artist Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara). Susanna Freymark

Her use of bright colours and her quirky depictions of turkeys and chickens show another side to the cyanotype works.

Tapscott also works with schools and has created murals and with Kyogle Public School students painted Kyogle's power poles with colourful animals and habitat.

See the work of Rebecca Tapscott (O'Meara) at Shop 41 Art in Gallery on Summerland Way in Kyogle. The shop opens in late October.

Follow her on Instagram @rebeccatapscottartist.



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