Angela Cockayne

The Whale as Muse

Hierarchies of Gaze

Growing up I remember trying to leap from my bedroom door to my bed frightened of a crocodile I imagined lurked beneath, once in bed I worried about the imminent Russian invasion and the threat of nuclear war. I was delighted to be born in 1959 a female, so I would not have to go fight in the trenches, tanks or similar. It would seem every generation has it’s own crocodiles that patrol our mortality.

What fearful scenarios invade our children’s imaginations today? Faceless and masked terrorists, Ebola, famines, global warming, environmental catastrophe to name but a few. It has become difficult to form allegiances to support and to address such issues when there are so many; we become ‘war weary’ and tend to bury our heads in the sand.

Fifty years on it is still difficult to address some of these issues. I now imagine a crocodile on my ceiling as an escape from some of the harder realities of life. Is it any more comforting to know that the mortality rate attributed to the common cold or flu  is significantly higher than those who have sadly recently died through Ebola, 500,000 flu deaths a year world wide, perhaps more alarmingly 1.24 million die each year world wide from car accidents.

How do we culturally and ethically address such issues without injecting fear into the veins of the mass population by media hype? Should we stop reading the news or approach such matters obliquely. Personally I try to do the latter confront the evidence or research and repackage it in away that is digestible to my own sensitivities. Through a curious visual language often exploring metaphor and myth.

If the science, or “truth’ gives us fact and evidence to solve questions, art creates curiosity. It asks questions rather than gives answers, creating space for ambiguity, new narratives – and more questions. Importantly art allows a viewer to think for themselves as a conduit the work offers the viewer scope to fill in the missing gaps and engage in a new narrative the work might evoke- thus creating dialogue, new responsibility and new potential ownership of an idea.

It is five hundred years since the Wunderkammer housed a united field of interdisciplinary enquiry, in an age before disciplines became separate under museums of science, nature and art. Fifty years ago CP Snow’s lecture on ‘Two Cultures’ mourned such separation; Edward O Wilson’s recent call echoed the desire for consilience of disciplines through a unity of knowledge.

Perhaps through a reunification, of art, science and nature, exploring a curious even subversive gaze we can confront the sceptical and represent the undeniable evidence of our trajectory through wonderment and engaging visual narratives to reflect upon our actions.

Like the crocodile under my bed these fears and realities may or may not exist but may remain mythical in their effect. We have to confront the issues of the world we inhabit, it is with what gaze we wish to communicate our enquiry, which is of interest to me.

Curiosita- Pewter, Leather, Vegetable Ivory Whale, Teeth, Eye Shell and Claws

With technological advancement of the democratised access of the Internet perhaps we can now facilitate worldviews exploring our natural curiosity through creativity and the rational. Now in the 21st century, we can investigate and explore a global dialogue between art, science, and our environment through collaborative partnership in context of current ethical debate.

Subaltern- Pewter, Pearls Teeth, Horseshoe Crab Carapace

Bournemouth Art Festival

Angela Cockayne & Philip Hoare’s filmed performance prior to talk

Arts By The Sea Festival

Angela Cockayne & Philip Hoare’s filmed performance prior to talk

Artist Angela Cockayne and author Philip Hoare collaborate on a  filmed performance, using artwork, objects, text, and spoken word.  Drawing the overarching symbol and shape of the sperm whale, Dominion  will be a multilayered and allusive attempt to come to terms with a  shared history between human and whale, between human history and  natural history, and the liminal region in between.

Dominion incorporates Cockayne’s chimerical objects, part animal,  part sculpture, with Hoare’s physical interaction with sperm whales.  Using artwork and text thrown up by this new meeting of art and  literature, the result is an aesthetic sermon on the state of the whale  and the world, based on Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby-Dick. 2009  Music composed by Nick Atkinson
15 mins played continuously on loop at Bournemouth Natural Science Society
Wednesday 8 October prior to talk from 19.00 £7
Sat 11 and Sun 12 October 10.00 – 16.00

Philip Hoare and Angela Cockayne – The Sea Inside

Talk and Exhibition
Philip Hoare, award-winning author of Leviathan, The Whale and The Sea Inside,  sets out to rediscover the sea and its animals. From Southampton to the  Azores, Sri Lanka, Tasmania and New Zealand, he travels in search of  birds, whales, and the way we humans have interacted with them.  Accompanying Philip for this talk is artist Angela Cockayne.
Cockayne uses found objects to create provocative assemblies of  discarded bottles and gannets’ wings, human hair and antique rifles and  lobster-clawed women. Beautiful and disturbing, they concern the natural  world and the human predicament. Her work will be on display at BNSS  during the Open Weekend
An Arts Bournemouth event.

Flourish & Thrive


Sand Cast Pewter





arc whale

Weapons of Mass Extinction


Harpoons, flights, and shafts combined with bird wings, beaks, and fish fins and tails found on shorelines.

Nature’s armory against anthropogenic dominion.





Cast wax robins mutated with heron, owl, starling, duck, blackbird, sparrow swallow, pigeon, seagull skulls.

Trench Foot, Wax, thorns, lipstick, barbed wire.



Any day now

The robin is a fiercely territorial bird and fights to defend its territory, here they congregate together in protest against war at the start of their journey to St Pauls Cathedral, London… lest we forget

 Window flock

364 robins cast in wax, gathered in a single, nervous mass. As in Hitchcock’s The Birds, the sense of something yet to happen leaves the viewer with a heightened sense of awareness, a primitive superstition, like a walk under ladders.

flock jpeg

We may overlook one robin, a nostalgic seasonal delight, but en masse their presence transforms the space they occupy into an ambiguous and contemplative one.

Cockayne uses her curious mixture of materials with wit and irony. Bird’s beaks are made of thorns, their feet from hair grips and breasts coated with lipstick.

Thematically, the work continues her interest in the poetics of objects and the implication of inherent meaning. She divests objects and images of their conventional meanings, and invites them to address the viewer directly.

stp light

Any day now is a work in transit, it can change, it may split, pairs may separate from the flock to find new homes. Or the birds could band together to fly across the ocean to gather in another small town or city.

For now, they are wild, they perch where they don’t belong and we can’t quite read the omen they’ve brought with them. Good fortune, or to augur catastrophe that might never happen, a danger too tenuous to be put into words.

Maureen Freely



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