[Art/Wildlife] Olly & Suzi - Arctic Desert Ocean Jungle
For the past 30 years, collaborative British artists Olly Williams and Suzi Winstanley have been engaged in a unique creative conversation with the endangered creatures, habitats and indigenous tribes of the natural world.
ARTISTS STATEMENT ~ "Our art making process is concerned with a collaborative, mutual response to nature at its most primitive and wild. Through live and direct interaction we aim to document the passing of animals, habitats and tribes that are here now but may not be for much longer. We make our work in response to the natural world from first hand experience. In this way the bush has become our studio." - Olly & Suzi
Psychic Garden are honoured to introduce our new resident creatives ~
Since 1993, Olly & Suzi have taken part in more than 50 expeditions to some of the remotest regions of the Earth, from Africa to Venezuela to the Antarctic. The duo specialise in the painting of endangered wild animals in close proximity whilst in their natural and often hostile environments. Unlike most artists, Olly & Suzi paint together on the same piece at the same time, each of them making their own marks on the paper, as they attempt to capture a likeness or the spirit of the wild animal appearing before them. They create their work in response to the natural world from first-hand experience, from “ground-truth”. Tracking, remote region medicine, scuba-diving, and wilderness survival became as essential to their practice as the selection of environmentally friendly art materials and paper they used.
Their exceptional draftsmanship is full of love and adoration for the animals that they capture on paper; their drawing and painting skills are unique, spared, schooled, vibrant and lyrical. Olly & Suzi have always tried to solicit assistance from their wildlife subjects during the creative process in the form of lion paw prints, gorilla finger holes, shark bite marks or African Wild Dog urine. Their interest in nature comes across as authentic; innocent and poetic, instead of being melodramatic and pumped up. All of their beautiful and engaging artwork seeks to capture the raw power and essence of these endangered animals & preserve a sense of nature's precious delicacy.
Nobody on earth does what Olly & Suzi do. Over the years they have created and gradually evolved their own unique artistic language by always working on the same painting at the same time, hand over hand, two minds to create one unifying expression in the heat of the moment, often while face to face with a mighty apex predator, anything and everything from Lions, Grizzly Bears, White Wolves, Elephants, Manta Rays, Sting Rays, Black Rhino, Cheetah, Buffalo, Polar Bears, Great White Sharks, Leopard Seals and Wild Dogs. Their work has always been focused on learning as much information as possible from wildlife.
Olly and Suzi are a unique artist. They combine into a single artistic personality - A hive mind: they draw and paint together on the same canvas, each with a hand on the same pencil, brush, burnt stick or Monkey tail. These are two people who are truly at one with nature, the whole world is their studio. - (It's important to note that if they ever used a monkey's tail to paint with, that the monkey would have been alive and well, and probably sitting curiously on Suzi's shoulder as she worked...)
...They swim under Arctic Ice, they dive deep into the gulf stream, they plunge on undaunted through the tall African grasslands and jungles that growl and hiss. All of these places are inhabited by the types of creatures that most people would rather avoid. Olly and Suzi spend their lives finding them....
...When they do, they get as close as possible and make a portrait. They prefer it if the subject participates, in their own words, they 'encourage the animals to interact' with the art. If Olly & Suzi make a portrait of a Lion, you are likely to find the lion's signature on the paper along with theirs, a paw print of authentication. ~ Excerpt by Clive James - taken from "Arctic Desert Ocean Jungle" (2003).
Today Olly & Suzi combine both a studio and wilderness practice. Their work has been held in private and public collections worldwide including; the Damien Hirst “murder me” collection, the UBS collection, the Astra Zeneca collection, the New Art Gallery, Walsall and the Natural History Museum in London where they held their own show between 2001-2002. They have always had high level supporters, but not the mainstream art world success that goes with it. Halfway between contemporary art and wildlife art, they have remained enigmatic outsiders to both worlds.
OLLY & SUZI - ONLINE EXHIBITION 2020
Psychic Garden are proud to present a new online showcase of Olly & Suzi's latest paintings made in their studio over the last two years. All the paintings in the scroll gallery below are available to purchase on their official website.
Please visit Olly & Suzi's website of fantastic wildlife artwork, you can browse their latest paintings ~ https://www.ollysuzi.com/
BEGINNINGS - (St Martin's, Syracuse, Germany, France)
Olly & Suzi first met as nineteen year old fine art students at Central St Martins School of Art in London in 1987, where they soon became an inseparable artistic duo, they spent three years in a state of constant experimentation and were always creating art together exclusively.
They were losing themselves in their work with plenty of time to think and with freedom to dream big. After several weeks of experimenting with colour and form, they were producing small mono-prints, etchings and engraving, before their initial playful experiments with drawing and painting on the same piece of paper became their bespoke creative language. They soon decided to always work in this unique style; hand over hand on the same painting at the same time. They built up a strong trust in one another and were incredibly self motivated in their student days, they soon made it their mission to create art together exclusively every day whilst distancing themselves from standard university life.
In 1988, six months into Olly & Suzi's creative alliance, they took up an exchange scholarship at Syracuse University in New York. It was to be the first of many journeys to unknown places for the duo and may have been the most important trip they ever made together. Syracuse was five hours away from New York City, deep in the heart of Mohawk and Onondaga Indian Territory, between the Adirondack Mountains to the north east and Lake Ontario to the north west. It was here at Syracuse that they discovered Native American art and learned of the Mohawk/Iroquois belief in ‘animals as brothers’. This ethos would have a profound impact on them both and remains their key subject to this day, the idea of 'animal as icon'.
Olly & Suzi learned about the local history and traditional Indian beliefs. They read the story about the 'hare and the blood clot', the beginning of human life (Mohawk myth describes a hare kicking a blood clot in the dust to shape and form mankind). They also learned of the universal Indian respect of all animals (they are seen as relatives), and soon came to know all the different types of local wildlife, including black bears, eagles, moose and foxes that lived in the nearby woods and mountains and soon became the ideal subjects for their first paintings in the wild.
"I have noticed in my life that all men have a certain liking for a special animal, tree, plant, or spot of earth... Let a man decide upon his favourite animal and make a study of it, learning its innocent ways. Let him learn to understand its sound and motions. The animals want to communicate with man" - Brave Buffalo, Sioux Nation ~ (Olly & Suzi's key inspiration.)
For economic reasons they made all their new paintings on brown wrapping paper, which they sized with acrylic copolymer. Mixing cheap poster colours with the plastic emulsion and drew in graphite, oil stick and Chinese ink. Indian legends, bears, horsemen, peanuts bags, Cadillacs, famous boxers, whales, guns, and fighting fish became their subjects. They wrote their thoughts and anecdotes on the paintings and juxtaposed their frenzied mark-making with iconic images of wild animals, skulls and floating shamen.
Over the next three months, Olly & Suzi wasted no time and made over twenty-five large scale works and hundreds of drawings. Paintings entitled 'Red Moose', 'Pink Teacup', 'Yellow Whale', 'White Bull', 'Bear', 'Greg is Wocked', 'Chocolate Covered Peanut' and 'Arsenio', hung five deep and covered their downstairs studio like worn tapestries. They painted twelve hours a day, every day, until they had said what they wanted to say.
Layers upon layers of thick paint and ink covered the works, the heady smell of oil sticks filling every corner of their home studio. They managed to sell their first works to dealers and collectors, they were wined and dined, misled and lied to. They met with every gallery in town, and with each rejection their resolve to collaborate was strengthened. Olly & Suzi shared both the success and the failure, but more importantly, these 20 year olds knew they could make it as artists. Being based in New York in the 1980's gave them the feeling like everything was possible, they could do anything. They were young, free and focused, and far away from home.
In their third and final year of the course, Olly & Suzi's work became more focused on predators, especially sharks. They became particularly obsessed with white sharks, their human kill ratio, their bite radius, speed in knots and pound per square inch jaw pressure. They soon made their biggest work to date, 'White Shark, Floating Man', 3.6 x 2.4 metres in three wooden panels.
After their graduation, Olly & Suzi set up a studio squat in Chelsea, where they worked for three years to produce over five hundred paintings that explored abstraction and figuration. They travelled to Germany, Spain and Switzerland, working in large sketch books, surviving on the odd art sale. In 1994, after losing their studio, their creative and financial circumstances led them to a simple conclusion. They would create a brand new studio within the natural world and start making their work on site in the wild.
Inspired by their first journeys into the North American wilderness and Mohawk Indian conservation wisdom, they were struck by a simple realisation; if they wanted to truly understand and document the nature of wild animals they needed to get out of their urban comfort zone and make the work where the animals actually lived, in the wild. After working for six months in Kenya and South Africa, Olly & Suzi were inspired and invigorated and began planning their first collaborative art trips to Africa. They saved up enough in 1994 to put their new plan into action. This was when Olly's brother, Greg Williams, first joined them and added a new and entirely dynamic photographic dimension to their artwork in the bush.
Chapter One - DESERT (Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana)
"My shot (above) of Suzi and our camel and Samburu guide Idi on our first African expedition to walk the Ewaso Njiro river in Kenya’s NFD. It was on this epic walk we tracked and painted our first large bull elephant in the wild." ~ Olly Williams
"Suzi’s favourite elephant painting (above). Based on the first bull elephant we saw together in Ewaso Njiro, painted 25 years later. That moment stayed with us forever" ~ Olly Williams
KENYA - Camels and Hippos (1995)
"Stop waiting around for the creative muse to strike, start working immediately" ~ David Hockney
Olly & Suzi's first safari to Kenya and Tanzania together was in 1995. They spent three months travelling along the Ewaso Njiro by camel and then explored the Ololo Escarpment and then up across the Chalbi desert to Lake Rudolf (Lake Turkana). They worked in Naivasha with friends who lived on the lake, where they got the chance to paint hippos, before they travelled through Tsavo to Shimoni where Olly had worked running a diving operation in the Kisti marine reserve in 1994 where he trained Suzi to dive. They then drove south to the border at Tanga and carried on until they reached Mkomazi National park where they first met the legendary Tony Fitzjohn and got their first chance to paint African Wild dogs.
TANZANIA - African Wild Dog (1995)
Olly & Suzi have spent a great deal of time over their artistic career working with the legendary wildlife conservationist pioneer Tony Fitzjohn and his wife Lucy Fitzjohn, who they first met back in 1995 in Tanzania, months after Olly & Suzi had left art school and first travelled to East Africa. It was here at Mkomazi that Olly & Suzi found their favourite subject; the African wild dogs. One of Africa's most enigmatic and persecuted apex predators.
After many years of working with lions at Kora with George Adamson, Tony Fitzjohn is helping to preserve the wild dog, Africa's most successful hunter. Working with Tony in Mkomazi, Tanzania, we were able to make a series of drawings and paintings of these beautiful dogs inside their breeding enclosure. Wild dogs, like wolves, are gregarious, social and intelligent predators who are surprisingly tolerant of man ~ Olly & Suzi
"Its an incredibly deep relationship that survives in spite of the fact that there is no speech, and survives in spite of the fact that it should be based on an innate sense of fear, not an innate sense of love. When you do have a relationship like that with a wild animal, it's the kind of relationship you don't want to get out of. It's a real treat to know that we can still connect deeply with these animals that we've shared the planet so intimately with for years, in spite of everything we've done to them. We like to think we're very clever and we've conquered everything but what are we doing now but sitting with the seeds of our destruction..." ~ Tony Fitzjohn
Olly & Suzi have painted the Wild Dogs and other endangered animals of Mkomazi Park for over 25 years. Tony and Lucy established Mkomazi Game reserve in 1998 and together they ran a successful breeding program for endangered Black Rhino and African Wild dog. Olly & Suzi's mutual commitment and respect to their wild subjects was cemented when they ventured into the field. The bush of Mkomazi quickly became Olly & Suzi's favourite studio and they soon became infatuated with the endangered African wild dogs. These wild dogs or "painted dogs" live inside a secure breeding enclosure for their own protection at the HQ of the national park, the dogs here are all part of an innovative breeding and rehabilitation program to help raise the species numbers before reintroducing the dogs back into the Tanzanian wilderness.
The number of Wild dogs in present day Africa are a mere fraction of what they were at the start of the century. They have been relentlessly hunted, shot and poisoned by farmers and hunters. Wild dogs are some of the most enchanting and misunderstood species on earth, the unsung hero of the wild. Wild dogs are the most successful land predators, the best animal killers in Africa, an animal that will strip you bare down to stomach contents, no bones or skull, in less than a minute and half. Despite their hunter skills, wild dogs never attack humans and are very tolerant of people. The highlight of any safari in Africa is seeing Wild dogs.
In 2010, at Mkomazi National park HQ, Tony Fitzjohn and his family rescued and adopted an orphaned baby Elephant, named Mr Tembo, who turned up crying on their airstrip one night, at only a few months old, and woke up the guard who was asleep in his outpost station. Tembo's mother had likely been killed by ivory poachers nights prior, her body was never found. The baby Elephant soon became a beloved family member and was the subject of many wonderful paintings & drawings by Olly & Suzi.
NAMIBIA - Cheetah & Dead Oryx (1997-1998)
"We have made many paintings of death. Working in the Namibia desert in the heat of the day, it is hard to understand how anything survives here" ~ Olly & Suzi
"In 1997, after working with sharks in South Africa, we were invited to track and interact with cheetah and lion at the Africat foundation in Namibia. Wayne and Donna Hansen pioneered a project that pays local farmers and livestock owners for stock killed by big cats and after they reimburse they farmers they dart and trans locate the cheetahs and leopard and lion to wild areas with little habitation or pastoral dwellings" - Olly & Suzi
"Cheetah are quite tolerant of us and a lot less dangerous than leopard at close ranges. They have the same fixed claws as a dog to allow them traction in the sandy soils at speed and therefore they are great at chasing prey but not so good at keeping or defending it from other big cats or hyena or wild dog. Here we were able to make a body of work at close quarters with cheetah and lion and also leopard". ~ Olly & Suzi
"There are a series of key reasons I work with Suzi. Not only is she totally fearless, she is totally awesome at drawing. I have my moments but Suzi nails the observation and lives totally in the moment. Our collaboration in the bush is really three fold. We are responding to each other’s marks, the extreme habitats- whether freezing or boiling hot and the movements of the predator/ endangered animal." ~ Olly Williams
BOTSWANA - The Lion and The Wild Dog (2000)
'Early in the morning in the delta, we witnessed an epic skirmish between the alpha wild dog (it had been tracked by Frankfurt zoological society for 6 years) and the alpha male lion for territory. An extraordinarily rare occurrence as both predators give each other a wide berth. It took a while for the lion to kill the dog as the tracking collar stopped the lion accessing the dog's windpipe. Photo by Greg Williams' ~ Olly & Suzi
Chapter Two - ARCTIC - (Siberia, North Pole, Alaska, Manitoba, Ellesmere Island, Minnesota, Montana, Swedish Lapland
"We were interested in polar journeys, of humans in hostile places. We wanted to record this passing, their process of discovery." - Olly & Suzi
ALASKAN WILDERNESS - 1996
"During our first three month stay in Alaska we experienced the extreme climatic change from winter to spring. It was at this time we realised the importance of our equipment, to enable us to work in these harsh extremes in temperatures as low as minus forty. For both of us it was good to know we were able to work in total seclusion and be competently self sufficient at the same time." ~ Olly & Suzi
MANITOBA - Ravens and Polar Bears (1996)
"We often drew in berries and with pieces of dried and upturned tundra. The cold wind here was harsh and as a result many of our pieces froze leaving beautiful patterns of crystallisation. As the days went on we worked mainly on the snowswept shores of Hudson Bay in close proximity to a number of large adult and adolescent polar bears" ~ Olly & Suzi
ELLESMERE ISLAND - (1998)
"As we walked towards the ice edge we felt dwarfed by the scale and magnificence of these ice formations, and on reaching a small shale beach started to paint abstract landscape. Rising from the icy plateau, bergs of every size and shape formed a horizon of pale blue and white. Once the painting was complete we let the flowing lines dry and then floated the four segments of the painting in the crystal clear melt water. Greg made a plate camera portrait as the colours and lines on the painting swirled and faded." ~ Olly & Suzi
ELLESMERE ISLAND - Arctic Wolf & Musk Ox (1998)
"We waited for three weeks in a small gully. The day before we were due to fly south the wolves returned. As we started to draw and film, the wolf approached us inquisitively, observing our movements, curious and completely unafraid. She came to within ten feet and we drew first her head then her slender flank. She stayed with us momentarily and then gradually walked towards the mountains to the east. There was no fear in her gaze. We stopped, allowing her to join her mate. Being careful not to harass or rush her, we were able to film and draw at her slow walking pace. By crouching down we had signalled to the wolf that we were not a threat, and she has acknowledged our submissive act. We knew now that the wolves were here, but for how much longer it would be hard to say" ~ Olly & Suzi
"Joseph Beuys inspired us with his week-long, gallery bound co-existence with a coyote. As an artist you measure yourself against other artists, and we responded to Beuys performance by interacting with a white wolf in Canada's Ellesmere island. We wanted to meet the wolf in its natural habitat. We wanted to take the human-animal and artistic interaction that extra stage further, to truly feel its spirit, we wanted to co-exist" ~ Olly & Suzi
MINNESOTA - The Timber Wolf (1998)
"Working out of a small log cabin, we made a series of treks around the local area on snow-shoe to establish if there had been any wolf activity in the area. We did not see wolf tracks for three days. We had made paintings about the spoor, the habitat and prey of the wolf and his relationship to the raven, but still we felt unable to paint him as we had not made an actual sighting" ~ Olly & Suzi
"From dusk we lay up for two hours by a small kill that we had seen the ravens devouring, earlier that day. After what seemed like an eternity we were alarmed to hear three loud coughs coming from the ridge forty yards to out left. The night was pitch black but we could make out a form moving slowly along the tree line. At the next cough we turned on our head torches and aligned the beams towards the direction of the sound. The wolf froze and lowered his head, his eyes flowing silver in the bright torch light. We were transfixed." ~ Olly & Suzi
SIBERIA / NORTH POLE - The Polar Bear (2000)
"We had arranged an expedition to travel to Sredniy, an island in Northwestern Siberia on the archipelago of Severnaya Zemiya. We had come to Russia's high arctic to track and paint the largest and most feared land and marine predator on the planet, the polar bear. This was a cold trip and had already taken us four days to reach St Peterburg from London. We joined up with an international team of polar explorers led by the famous Russian/American partnership of Victor Boyarsky and Will Steger" ~ Olly & Suzi
"We travelled with the team to Noril'sk in northern Siberia and then onto the fishing village of Khatanga. Many of the town's native population descend from the tribe of nomadic reindeer herders (the Dolgan), who travel and live on the surrounding tundra. Local indigenous traders revolves around fur clothing, hats and mukluks and an array of bone trinkets. We did much bartering for fur ruffs and hats as we prepared and adapted for our long trip up north to Sredniy. There would be no hotels or lodges for the explorers from here on out" ~ Olly & Suzi
"When we reached Sredniy we were based at a remote meteorological station for a week looking for bears. We planned to meet the rest of the team at the North Pole eight days later to make paintings with the group and return south. For the first time on our trip we were alone, all we could think about were polar bears. Over the next two days we ventured onto the ice on foot looking for signs and tracks, In the evenings we flew with the research teams across the ice-bound islands where we spotted our first two bears, running free from the pack. We made drawings and film from the chopper and a few days later we managed to land close to a huge bear" ~ Olly & Suzi
"We work fast and spontaneously to capture the immediacy of the moment. Whether we are working under water, in the jungle, in the desert or even at the north pole the systems are the same. Good equipment and clothing are essential wherever you are. Each environment presents a particular challenge or difficultly. The biggest threat to painting in the polar regions is frostbite. To be able to paint we had to keep warm and keep moving, when you are standing still and painting your toes can quickly become numb and freeze. Water freezes on contact at minus thirty degrees so we boiled the water and stored the pre-heated paints in insulated bottles. Once a line or mark has been made the paint freezes and leaves imprints of ice crystals embedded in the surface of the paper." ~ Olly & Suzi
"The bear was curious. We quickly started to paint while Greg took photos. After watching us for a while the bear scaled the ridge and started running full speed for us, before changing direction and heading for an open water inlet 50 metres to our left. The bear crashed into the icy water and began to roll and play around on the ice, he was cooling himself down as we watched and painted him while we slowly moved nearer to the water's edge. It was now well past midnight and the light had turned blood orange, the bear was now relaxed in the water, lying on his forepaws. ~ Olly & Suzi
To watch and paint a predator in the wild, in its natural habitat, is a wonderful experience. We had intruded into the bear's hunting domain and now we retreated to await the return of the helicopter. As we moved away we watched the bear silhouetted against the haze of the ice, sea and sky as he swam, crawled and played in the snow, giving us one last magical memory on our final day on Sredniy - A magnificent free animal running wild." ~ Olly & Suzi
ALASKA - Brown Bears - (2001)
"For many years we had wanted to get close to large grizzly bears. During our first Alaska trip in 1996 we had only a brief sighting interspersed with an assortment of terrifying stories of back-woods bear attacks. In the summer of 2001, we flew by floatplane with bear biologist Derrick Stonorov, to a remote lake in the Katmai Peninsula and made camp". ~ Olly & Suzi
"We referred to this environment as a lost world. A world where seagulls, arctic jaegers and eagles flocked and where giants roamed free. The bears seemed perfectly happy with our presence, even the mothers and their cubs, and by keeping a respectful distance they seemed content to go about their daily rituals of feeding, playing and often just lazing in the brief spells of warm sunshine" ~ Olly & Suzi
"Having arrived with many pre-conceptions about the dangers of the Alaskan grizzly bear, we came away with a very different understanding of this remarkable carnivore. Our guide's shotgun stayed in his tent throughout the trip, armed only with a love and respect for the world's largest land predator. It was a privilege and an education to get so close and to make drawings and paintings in such an intimate manner." ~ Olly & Suzi
Chapter Three - OCEAN - (Galapagos, Gozo, Sipidan, Cayman Islands, South Africa, Northern Norway)
"In 1998 after six weeks of diving we had only encountered three turtles. At the turn of the last century it was not possible to approach the shorelines of Las Tortugas - the cayman Islands - for the sheer abundant number of turtles" ~ Olly & Suzi
SOUTH AFRICA - The Great White Shark (1997)
"In 1997 we travelled to Gansbaai near Cape Town, South Africa, to make a series of paintings underwater with the most feared and misunderstood predator in the world, the Great White Shark." ~ Olly & Suzi
"Fear plays a vital role in our art-making process, we are constantly challenged by and confronted with environments and animals, especially predators (polar bears, big cats, sharks), that trigger adrenaline, a primal response that alerts us to the potential of imminent danger." ~ Olly & Suzi
"We spent ten days diving with the white shark in Gansbaai - our guides used to be white shark hunters - the white shark research institute now pioneer white shark research. Tracking, painting and interacting with these animals emphasises the reality of being on the food chain. In the wild, the instinctive reaction between predator and prey is often typified by the fight and flight syndrome." ~ Olly & Suzi
"This was our second dive (above image) - on our first the sharks were able to thrust their noses into the wide openings. Not sure the yellow rope was going to help much..." ~ Olly & Suzi
"A lot of time and effort went into capturing this image (above). Suzi and I wanted to get the trace, imprint - and evidence to our interaction with a stunning beautiful endangered predator that was here now but just might not be for much longer. First I needed to train both Suzi and greg to dive. Then we discussed a way to get this shot. After ten days diving and floating our painting this massive 5.5 m white shark took a bite and greg captured the bite sequence." ~ Olly & Suzi
"A few years after we made shark bite in South Africa, Suzi, who as you might not know is terrified of water, forget white sharks, suggested we go and make another body of work off waters of Mexico with white sharks. This time we wanted to get detail and a less threatening image which Suzi felt portrayed the wrong message. We selected a medium format hassleblad camera and housing and together with greg we made this shot." ~ Olly Williams
"Shark bite helped establish our career as it was a massively syndicated Image. But carcaradon was the message of majesty and beauty of these predators we wanted to convey. It also became a successful image and Damien Hirst's favourite of the species. It is in his ‘murder me ‘ collection shown at the serpentine and sits behind the desk in his study at home. Super proud of that." ~ Olly Williams
ANTARCTICA - Leopard Seals (2005)
"Leopard Seals are the apex predator in the Antarctic waters. Aside from orca, they have no natural predators. We planned for two years an expedition to sail down across the drake passage from Argentina to dive with these awesome seals; the antarctic equivalent of the bear polar." ~ Olly & Suzi
"To achieve this mission we needed an expert guide who understood these seals and had dived with them. At the time in 2005 there were only two underwater camera men who had this experience. One was BBC Natural History legend Doug Allen. Doug agreed to join us and with our film team we next needed a vessel that was capable of making the crossing of the roughest ocean on earth. Skip Novak the big ocean skipper had just the vessel and his top captain Dave Wilkins joined the team" ~ Olly & Suzi
"We set sail from the port of Ushuaia and for 4 days battled force ten storms. For me this was just about the worst experience of my life. I am an experienced professional diver and have loved and worked hard at sea but had never sailed in such intense waters. I pretty much just shut down in my bunk and surfaced on deck three days later as we hit calmer waters and ice bergs of the Antarctic zone. For the next month we sailed south along the antarctic peninsula and made a series of dives with these stunning 13 foot long seals." ~ Olly Williams
"On one dive the seal approached us under an ice berg and allowed us to draw him. We had no cages, or defence just Doug's expert knowledge of filming leopard seals and our diving skill and respect for large predators. It was such an extraordinarily hardcore expedition but one we will never forget. Like so many of our expeditions we spent a good amount of time well out of our comfort zone and these trips are always the ones you remember." ~ Olly & Suzi
Chapter 4 - JUNGLE - (Venezuela, Nepal, India, Australia, Amazon, Borneo)
"This is Suzi's favourite portrait of us both (above), taken by Greg, swimming in the Orinoco river of the Venezuelan Amazon. We had come to this remote region to live with the piaroa Indians to paint ‘arachnis blondis ‘ the largest tarantula on earth. In this black water were anaconda, piranha and capybara. We also heard jaguar baying at night as we lay awake in our hammocks in the Jungle." ~ Olly Williams
VENEZUELA - Tarantula, Anacoda & 24 Ants (2000)
The twenty four hour ant can grow over five centimetres long and if it bites you, you know about it for 24 hours ~ Olly & Suzi
"Going up the river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, and impenetrable forest" ~ Olly & Suzi
"We spent a few weeks tracking and capturing green anaconda with the field research team at Hato el frio in the llanos of Venezuela. With our guide jesus we walked into the swamps and poked the mud. If it moves it is either a stingray, a cayman croc or an anaconda. Once located our job was to wrangle the snake into a sack, being careful to avoid the creatures all-powerful jaws. A simple rule of thumb: if an anaconda is thicker than your thigh you can’t control it." ~ Olly & Suzi
"While the biologists did their tests and took blood we were able to use non toxic paint and made soft prints of Anacondas. After the biologists finished their study we released the snakes back into the marsh lands." ~ Olly & Suzi
NEPAL - Tiger, Panther & Elephant (1997)
"We flew into Khatmandu and then by light aircraft to the remote Bardia park in the Karnali valley. Our days were spent tracking tigers on elephant and later by foot. We learnt to move through the dense forest and recognised the size, weight and sex of a variety of game ranging from elephant, rhino, gaur buffalo, tiger, leopard, marsh mugger and sloth bear. In two months we had only three tiger sightings but were able to hear calls and find fresh pug prints on a daily basis. Based on these brief but vivid experiences we made a series of large paper pieces about the spirit and passing of the tiger". ~ Olly & Suzi
"Black tiger. We made this painting (below) tracking Bengal tiger with legendary tiger tracker and conservationist billy argun singh in dudwah park at his home tiger haven in uttarpradesh, northern India in 1998. This painting was inspired by the legend of a black (melesanic) tiger sighted by his tracker (in the background) and we made it in the long grass on fresh tiger prints with the sound of tiger moaning close by. After we made the piece we washed it in the little river and revealed the trace of our line. We often do this as a form of primitive bush printmaking and add another level of chance and risk to the finished work." ~ Olly & Suzi
"The best way to travel in the jungle is by elephant. It is important to remember how sensitive elephants are, and of course they never forget. One of the most frightening moments we had in the jungle was when we were travelling on our elephant Sundar Kali and were chased by a wild male bull elephant. Sundar Kali took some time to recover" ~ Olly & Suzi
"I love this photo (above) - It sets the subject of our tracking in context with the entire jungle eco system with a wild Indian bull elephant dead centre in the frame, 'bardia gagh’ - bardia national park, far western Nepal." - Olly Williams
AUSTRALIA - Crocodiles (1999)
"We came to Northern Australia to work with saltwater crocodiles, the most adaptable and dangerous crocodiles on earth. We worked with Dr Graeme Webb's team, taking body prints as the biologists did their research. Working in this way alongside scientists in the wild has greatly affected and informed our work." ~ Olly & Suzi
JOURNEY - Mongolia and Brunei - The People (2002)
"We are indebted to the tribespeople we have met over the past twenty five years. They have guided us, taught us and provided us with valuable help in positioning us to achieve our interactions with our animal subjects. After decades of avidly painting predators, we set out to Mongolia and Brunei to focus solely on drawing and painting the daily survival of those who co-exist with the beasts and the wild; the tribe, the hunter, the nomad still awaited us. Until now, our interests had primarily extended to the spiritual interpretations of animals in indigenous mythology and aboriginal artwork, but we had not yet explored their actual mechanics of living..." ~ Olly & Suzi
"...We had investigated our subject matter through our initial discoveries with north American indians and now, fifteen years on, we were keen to delve into the daly life styles of the people whose very existence, like many of our animals subjects, were under threat." ~ Olly & Suzi
"Our first journey took us to the remote Mongolian province of Bayan Olgi, where we stayed with a Muslim Kazakh eagle hunter and his family. We lived as part of his family in their ger (felt house), we learned about their beliefs and customs and their remarkable relationship with a huge golden eagle. The eagle represented the ancient tradition among Kazakh nomads, and the very spirit of what it means to be a hunter in this wild and unforgiving mountain environment: man and beast working the hunt as one" ~ Olly & Suzi
"Our host did not own a vehicle. He had made the 6 hour journey to Olgi only once before. However, he was aware of the outside world and had heard about what happened on September 11th, 2001. It made him very sad, and he wanted us to know that we were his brothers. He was one of the most courteous hosts we had ever had; he said that we had shared his home for more than a day - we were his brothers, it was a simple as that" ~ Olly & Suzi
The ger fascinated us as an ingenious structure and as a symbol of nomadic life. Every few months the Kazakhs dismantle their wood and felt dwelling and load it onto two camels, and along with their goats and horse move to new pastures. For thousands of years, Mongolians and Kazakhs have lived in this simple and effective way, in rhythm with the land and the seasons, rendering a landscape free of ownership and the clutter of civilisation. ~ Olly & Suzi
BORNEO - Orangutang (2003)
In 2003, after their trip in the jungles of Brunei, Olly & Suzi were invited to draw and paint portraits of orphaned Orangutang who live in Sepilok conservation sanctuary in Borneo, Indonesia. Olly & Suzi explored the wild rivers and jungles on Mt Kinabalu and coastal jungle with wild proboscis monkeys and on Sipidan underwater with turtles. They got the chance to interact with a wild female Orangutan and a single baby too in a coastal jungle region on foot, which was an extraordinary experience.
Documentaries and Film Work
Olly & Suzi's first art ﬁlm ‘Instinct’ featured below, was made during the early years of their expeditions in search of endangered predators in remote regions and previewed at the ICA in London. The footage was shot and edited by them both on a variety of formats ranging from 8mm to 16mm and early digital. The soundtrack is by Ali Farka Touré and arranged by Suzi.
A few years later Nick Fraser of BBC ‘Storyville’ commissioned a one hour documentary about Olly & Suzi's work in the wild. It features much of the footage from ‘Instinct’. Watch the full documentary on OLLY & SUZI below.
Here's an early episode of Talking in the Library with Olly & Suzi ~
~ Psychic Garden