Wild things looks at nature boards or interpretive signage found in Irish parks, wetlands, and nature reserves. Hand-painted by regional wildlife artists, the signs depict the animal and plant life we could expect to see in the surrounding landscape. They depict a romantic vision of the natural world showing landscapes teeming with wildlife, named and numbered, standing in stark contrast to the seemingly empty surrounding landscapes. They reminded me of prehistoric art or Victorian-era illustrations. I’d search for decrepit and weathered signs and photographed fragments of these vernacular artworks, abstracting the depicted creatures, reinterpreting the paintings.
The attempt to place an order on nature seems to be hard-wired in the human brain. From the earliest cave paintings to Linnaeus’ ambitious attempts to catalogue all of the world’s species, we have sought to make sense of the apparent chaos of the living world, arranging species into hierarchical groups through the prism of human vision. In seeing and naming the living world, we forge some of our deepest relationships with these elusive, wild things.