We are always interested in art and unique art projects in the Kingdom and artist and designer Lindsey Carr has embarked on a curious and unsual project, entitled The Unseen Bestiary, which everyone should most certainly get involved in.
The idea of a Bestiary became very popular around the 12th century, but the documenting of lifeforms began as early as the 2nd century. Of course, most of the life being documented had never been seen by the artist therefore his rendering was based solely on descriptions. During the Middle Ages, each animal was believed to have specific meaning and reflected The Word of God.
I asked Lindsey a few questions about the project:
Can you tell me a bit about your background - where/what did you study?
I studied Art & Design 15 or so years ago at a college in Hackney but after leaving college I found it hard to get representation and I needed to earn a living so I went into design and my personal work disappeared for about 10 years. It was only when I moved to Scotland and could finally afford to have a studio room in my house that I started working again.
This is such an unique project. Can you explain why you decided to embark upon it and what do you hope to achieve at the end of it?
It was a fairly natural step for me really. I’ve been painting primarily animal life for the last 3 years and most of that work is a kind of homage to the glory days of Natural History Printing.Can be seen at (www.lindseycarr.co.uk, or www.littlerobot.org.uk) . Bestiaries have always been a rich source of inspiration but I’ve never previously referenced them directly. By the end of it I hope to have understood something more about anatomical structures - although I’m not aiming for realism the creature should still ‘work’. The material outcome is an exhibition in Berlin in April of next year and a small run of books cataloguing the work.
I like the fact it's almost going back to pre-internet, as I understand you are not allowed to look up the animal for any kind of reference? Do you feel that, living in the internet era, we have lost some of the art of communicating by spoken language? By that I mean, do you feel if we want to explain something we simply Google it now?
Yes absolutely! I can only use what the person tells me – if they give me hardly anything then in some ways it’s a bit of a blessing as it opens up possibilities. Many of the submissions to the project so far I can guess from the tone are probably from Wikipedia or similar - I’m grateful for any submission but my favourites by far are the ones where the person has obviously looked at a photo or seen it once and tried to describe it. People lie and get things wrong so there’s something about Chinese whispers and the distortion of information which is magical and full of possibility. While access to smartphones and the presence of Wikipedia is clearly a kind of advance for mankind - it homogenises information, we all know the same thing (the first paragraph of wikipedia) and it’s always ‘right’.
In terms of what people submit, what can it be? Is it restricted to animals or can it be any kind of living entity?
People can submit anything (Plant, Mammal, Reptile, Algae, Bird) . And although I ask that it’s a real living thing or once was real (It can be extinct) as someone pointed out to me today - people can lie and i’ll never know about it. Which far from being a problem is something which suggested even further possibilities to me.
Do you plan on expanding the project? How wonderful it would be to be able to buy a print of the animal you submitted!
The main expansion is to produce a book – Natural History’s natural home is in book form. But any etchings produced will be for sale and all of the paintings will be available as digital prints. I have it in mind that anyone who submits a description which gets made will be sent a print of it for free.
How do people submit their descriptions?
People can submit their descriptions to me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through the website
I've already submitted my animal and now will be hunting for more strange creatures to submit to the project.