Animal Art

Artwork for Meredith in the modern era has been created by the sublime mind of Clemens Habicht. Meredith has had an animal as its mascot since 1992. For about fifteen years the animal was created by the amazing Kate ‘Noota’ Van Nooten. The animal must be native (or introduced) to the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre – it must live at the site. There have been butterflies (1992, 1998), a wedge-tailed eagle (2006*) and a number of ‘water’ animals (duck 2001 and turtle 2004) – but they seemed to only create very wet (rainy) festivals, so we stopped doing that.

Clem’s animals are hand-made using cut out paper and card, and incorporate a second element that might not be obvious on first look – in 2009 he made powerful owls with speaker eyes and gum trees for wings; for the 20th anniversary he made a flock of lorikeets with people from the festival making up their anatomy, for the 21st he made a monarch butterfly grub (pupae) with dozens of legs dancing. 2012 was a mob of roos with a number of scenes from the festival itself incorporated into them. For Meredith23, Clem brought to life a flock of galahs, several in flight, and a couple on the perch. They are taken from actual photos of people at the actual festival. All of them incorporate scenes from the festival, including the Pink Flamingo, The Meredith Eye, The Arch of Love, the festoon lighting in The Sup’ and so on.

In 2014 Clem created some raggedly regal nomadic emus. Whilst the technique of card and paper ‘masking’ remained the same, Clem focussed on the individual stances and body shapes of the emus, rather than incorporating aspects of the festival into their make-up. They walked the line between looking ungainly and like ballet dancers.

For the 25th, we went with the humble and under-rated sheep, a ruminant ungulate, descended from wild mouflon, non-territorial and gregarious, singular and plural, with excellent hearing and wide peripheral vision, that can see behind without turning its head. The Nolan farm has had sheep for generations, so it was a fitting choice. It’s amazing how much character he gets into the little creatures.

The humble yabby is our animal this year, created by masking shapes with dexterity and good humour by Clem.

This is tempting fate, you know. Each year there is some significance as to why the animal is chosen. And every animal must inhabit the site, be it indigenous or introduced. 1997 was the first year we had a ‘water’ animal, a frog. It poured with rain. Then we had a duck in 2001 – again, rain. In 2004 a turtle, and the hundred year storm ensued. We learnt our lesson and haven’t had one since.

Hubris may be our undoing, but we’re feeling bold and un-superstitious. Are we crazy?

* In 2006, a family of wedge-tailed eagles lived across the river, the site crew watched them for weeks through a ‘dumpy’ telescope thingy, and one day saw the chick leave the nest for the first time and fly. The eagle became that year’s mascot, and is illuminated above The Sup’ to this day.