Sheep Wrecked by Kevin Weaver
Sheep Wrecked is an installation about the overgrazing of the Lake District in northwest England where I have now lived for 10 years. Several reports and experts have warned of the degradation of the landscape and the threat to species diversity due to overgrazing by mainly sheep. Soil degradation as the lack of trees due to sheep nibbling everything down is a serious problem with more extreme weather patterns causing downpours leading to flooding of towns and villages which wash down valuable topsoil form the mountains and fells leaving just barren rock. Lack of tree cover means poisonous bracken, which has cancerous spores and nothing eats it, has spread all over the lower Lakeland fells stopping anything else growing. Lack of forests caused by overgrazing and clearance means wildlife can’t get a toehold like the endangered red squirrel, badgers, deer, foxes and many species of birds which all need cover to live nest and hide. Sheep farming is no longer a viable and acceptable way of earning a living with Herdwick sheep ( a native Lakeland hardy breed that’s the only type that can survive on the mountains and fells doesn’t produce much edible meat (too touch) and the wooi’s very poor quality. So they are an anachronism and farmers survive only from EU handouts which will end soon anyway thanks to Brexit! Many farms have gone bust already and have been subsumed into huge collective farms where modern farming methods mean old traditions have died out and management of the sheep and fells has decreased.
I spent 3 years collecting about 200 sheep skulls from the Lakeland fells and mountains during walks and have painted them bright colours with marks like dots and dashes on them in complimentary colours to stand out and aping the Aborigine style who were very close to their land and use the markings of animals they revered and lived off to describe their world in art. Some of these marks and colours are similar to those used by The Impressionists who have influenced my paintings. I have always loved colour and not been afraid to use it to heighten the emotive power of landscapes and nature. I celebrate it. The skulls will be hung from hooks on 25 poles I have a put around the walls of the gallery and some of the larger rams skulls will have changing coloured LED lights in them to represent the superiority of these herd leaders that sire the next generation but it also acts to highlight the almost demonic look of these rams with their huge devil-like horns. And the fact that these are skulls also represents death and the dying out of our old ways of farming and perhaps if we don’t heed the environmental warnings we are getting – the death of our own species as global warming and pandemics like our current Covid-19.