The masterpieces will be showcased in Buttitta’s latest body of work, ‘Lost Thylacine’, at Twiverton Gallery Lewisham on Sunday, March 31.
The renowned Italo-Australian artist is fascinated by lost relics of the Australian landscape.
Her exhibition will include oil paintings and drawings centred on the mysterious and infamously extinct creature, the Tasmanian Thylacine.
Otherwise known as the “Wonthaggi Monster”, the Thylacine is said to have become extinct from mainland Australia about 2000 years ago, while living on in the island state of Tasmania before the last creature died at Hobart zoo in 1936.
Buttitta’s fascination with the creature stemmed back to one of her earlier series, ‘Lost Child in the Bush’ which traced and re-depicted the Australian anxiety over losing children in the landscape.
It was while Buttitta was researching this already spooky topic (think Picnic at Hanging Rock) that she came across old articles questioning ominously “have YOU seen the Wonthaggi Monster?”
Said to prowl about the agricultural zones, the Thylacine was described as “big as a dog, with large claws, large head, a furry body and striped like a zebra with a long tail”.
This fabled and beautiful creature was unfortunately blamed for poor farming in Tasmania in the early colonial days.
Many blamed the Thylacine for maiming sheep and preying on chickens, to an extent that was probably exaggerated.
Nonetheless, the Tasmanian government placed a bounty on its head, offering one pound for each adult scalp and 10 shillings for sub-adults.
“They encouraged people to shoot as many as possible,” Buttitta said.
“And this was one of the most idiosyncratic animals in the world.
“It was a survivor from prehistoric times and was related to ancient Australian mega fauna.”
Like Buttitta’s earlier series ‘Rags to Riches’, on her Italian immigrant past, the works are infused with absence and yearning.
There is also an element of hope in the work.
Despite the Thylacine being an international symbol of extinction, Buttitta exclaimed that “people still believe they see it, they believe it is alive!”.
“There is an Australian obsession with finding lost things in the landscape,” she added.
Which probably explains Buttitta’s collaboration with the scientists, who are both working toward de-extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger.
During Dr Michael Archer’s tenure as director of the Australian Museum, he was the initiator of attempts to clone the creature.
His portrait is a surrealist image within a dream-like landscape repopulated by the lost animal.
Professor Andrew Pask also worked extensively with the Thylacine genome.
He has attempted clones from “pouch young” specimen which had been preserved in alcohol.
Buttitta is a regular participant in the Archibald Prize, with her portrait of renowned artist Judy Cassab AO CBE being selected as a finalist in the 2015 Archibald Prize.
‘Lost Thylacine: An exhibition of works that reimagine the extinct Thylacine, loss and hope’ will open on Sunday March 31, 2019 from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, at Twiverton Gallery, 13 Railway Terrace, Lewisham.
Buttitta’s Archibald and Sulman Prize entries will be on display in the exhibition.