Reared and groomed by dedicated owners for participation in pageants, ornamental chickens, including the impressive Malaysian breed of Ayam Serama, project a natural and seemingly effortless charisma rivalling that of human models. Ernest Goh’s award-winning portraits capture the full range of these beautiful birds’ personalities: puffed chests, ruffled plumage, bowed heads and all. By turns provocative, humorous and surprising, the photographs in Cocks will move you to view our humble feathered friends in an entirely different light.
INTRODUCTION BY: Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr. Curator of photography. Inspector General for Photography at Minsitère of Culture and Communication, and artistic director of the Rencontres d’Arles in 1990.
Published in the US, UK and Australia as CHICKENS
Hardcover: 200 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (March 3, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
Published in Singapore as COCKS
Publisher: Epigram Books
Product Dimensions: 125 x 175mm
Breakfast at 8 Jungle at 9 is a phrase from naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace’s 1854 letter to his mother. Wallace wrote the letter describing his daily work schedule when he was in Singapore. Using Singapore as a base he explore the late 19-century Malay Archipelago – which covered the Malaysia peninsula, east Malaysia, Indonesian Sumatra java and stretching all the way east to Papua New Guinea and Timor.
Wallace stayed in the Malay Archipelago for 8 years and collected thousands of specimens of insects, birds and mammals including hundreds of new species. His persistence also led to him to realise the theory of natural selection of which he and Charles Darwin are jointly credited with discovering.
Of all the great books, papers and articles that Wallace has written it is this correspondence he wrote to his mother on May 28, 1854 that resonated the most with the artist – especially the part describing his activity during the times of the day. A schedule he performed repeatedly against the vigorous conditions of the tropical jungle in the 19 century.
“I will tell you how my day is now occupied. Get up at half past five. Bath and coffee. Sit down to arrange and put away my insects of the day before, and set them safe out to dry. Charles mending nets, filling pincushions, and getting ready for the day. Breakfast at eight. Out to the jungle at nine. We have to walk up a steep hill to get to it, and always arrive dripping with perspiration. Then we wander about till two or three, generally returning with about 50 or 60 beetles, some very rare and beautiful. Bathe, change clothes, and sit down to kill and pin insects. Charles ditto with flies, bugs and wasps; I do not trust him yet with beetles. Dinner at four. Then to work again till six. Coffee. Read. If very numerous, work at insects till eight or nine. Then to bed”
Specimens from this work were collected as early as 1909 and are archived by Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in Singapore. The artist photographed these specimens while working on a 12-metre entrance lobby mural art for the museum’s new building.
Ernest Goh is a visual artist whose work focuses on ecological relationships. His fascination with the natural world began as a boy at his grandmother’s rural kampung in Singapore, wading in streams looking for fish and jumping into bushes searching for spiders. Ernest founded Ayer Ayer – an ecologically-engaged initiative that reaches out to communities through visual and participatory artworks to foster environmental protection and awareness. Ayer Ayer’s focus on ocean plastic in the regional waterways of South-East Asia has led to the creation of public art, digital gamification and research projects.
His animal portraits have been published in The Fish Book (2011), Cocks (2013, republished as Chickens in the US in 2015), and The Gift Book (2014). His recent work was presented in the solo exhibition Breakfast at 8 Jungle at 9 (Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film, Singapore, 2015). Ernest has received the Discernment Award at the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu Awards, Singapore (2012), Sony World Photography Award (2013) and an award of excellence from Communication Arts Photography Annual, USA (2013).
Ernest’s work has been commissioned by and installed at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Singapore, collected by the Multimedia Art Museum Moscow, and also resides in corporate, public and private collections.
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