An art exhibition inspired by the pandemic. This is the tale of an amazing artist known as Bunny!
Dolores De Sade is no stranger to South East Asia. During what should have been a romantic tropical holiday, De Sade, who is fondly known as Bunny, was witness to the 2014 tsunami that unexpectedly ravaged so much of Thailand’s picturesque coastline. This colossal tragedy affected millions of people across the world on this Boxing Day that will forever be etched into people’s memories. Bunny and her partner were staying in Krabi and were able to run to the hills and climb 1260 steps to the top of Wat Tham Sua where they watched the events unfold.
The horrors that unfurled led Bunny to take stock of her life, and she decided that she would run towards her dreams with a sense of freedom.
Upon her return to England, Bunny quit her job as a lecturer of history at the University of York and enrolled as a mature student to study art. She studied in an eclectic inner-city college that embraced a haphazard blend of students ranging from teenagers to pension gatherers. She loved every moment and learned to appreciate the range of abilities and skills that her fellow students possessed to be creative.
Bunny fell in love and specialised in an ancient printmaking technique called Intaglio; a detailed print that is produced by cutting, scratching or etching a design into the surface of a copper, zinc or aluminium plate. Through a complexity of various procedures, ink is forced into the grooves, and the plate is pressed tightly through a printing press. The final appearance of the print is affected by many factors, including wax consistency, and the ink and paper used during the production process.
The Royal College of Art is the world’s most influential postgraduate institution of art and design. It was here that Bunny connected with history and tradition and was privileged to use showstopping technology from the Great Exhibition of 1851. Bunny became aware that many a moth-eaten book and faded journal illustration would have come to life from this press. Visual senses still resonate more flatteringly with these deep-rooted images of forgotten scenery than they do with modern technology and aerial landscapes from Google Maps.
Bunny has exhibited far and wide and has abounding exhibits in The Royal Collection UK, The Victoria & Albert Museum, The British Library, Ashmolean Museum, Royal Shakespeare Company, RCA, Sir John Cass School of Art, as well as in public collections in China, Thailand and Japan.
During her extensive travels across the wondrous continent of Asia, Bunny became fascinated by the eastern traditions of landscape and horticulture in Japan, Malaysia, China, Vietnam and of course, Thailand. “I’ve discovered that societies see compact and miniature versions of nature representing larger landscapes and ways of life. These examples are contained and focused but demonstrate the inherent struggle to contain and construct. They are also an exploration of how to live within, yet fully appreciate the vastness of the universe” Bunny explains. “I started this project on bonsai, suiseki (stone appreciation) and ikebana (Japanese floristry) 18 months ago. All are common throughout Asia, with various public shows and competitions running throughout the year”.
In July, Bunny was due to host a two-month funded residency and exhibition at the centre dedicated to printmaking at Shirakino Art Village in Kyushu, Japan. She should have devoted her time to masters from the Nippon Suiseki Association and Sogetsu Foundation and studying ikebana and bonsai. Instead, the global pandemic had other ideas and vast travel restrictions and lockdown rules were enforced, and the exhibition was postponed. Bunny felt the restrictions of her own movements, so she explored the bound, trapped and restricted aspects in bonsai, suiseki and ikebana.
The art exhibition, Everything is Great Here in Wonderland at Den of Creative, The Road Less Travelled in Koh Samui was much more introspective than her previous works. Bunny spoke of herself feeling trapped and constrained and how the trees were kept in similar restrictive and unnatural conditions. “The trees are leafless but surviving. They continue to grow, despite the torture! Twisted and distorted, but still coping. A mountain-like scene is created from the display of a rock – this stone will remain barren and silent, but it will continue being a stone. The bonsai trees can only be grown and kept with complicated support, scaffolding and bondage to create the desired shape”.
She talked about the humour in the notion of humans struggling to conquer nature. “The difficulty, often futility, of the supreme efforts needed to make a tree grow a branch at the desired angle and contortion. Man (and it is most often men!) conquering nature, spending years and considerable effort to make a small twig bend in the direction that they want”.
The recent opening night of Dolores De Sade’s exhibition was a roaring success, and the community emerged happily from their cocoons and shared in Bunny’s notions of entrapment. A cellist, pianist and a couple of didgeridoo-ists created melodic tunes, fabulously sexy cocktails were served, and the inspiring exhibition left the arty gathering feeling replete, recharged and happy. The art exhibition will continue until 30 September.