You might think of nature as pristine and chaste. You imagine strolling across grass of the perfect length (mown daily by Mother Nature to facilitate walking), while scores of doves flit through the rustling leaves overhead. A creek flows merrily nearby, and as you near the sapphire-blue water a fish leaps up, gives a jaunty fin wave and winks at you.
Robert Friday doesn’t think of nature that way. Nature is filthy. It’s dirty. And it’s all about sex. At least that’s the tack he took when he created his latest painting, a contribution to Venus Envy’s second annual Filthy Dirty Art Show. He had to find a way to make his work — he specializes in depictions of nature — fit with the show’s theme.
The painting is filthy and dirty in a few senses: it depicts some of the cruder aspects of nature — the soil and the way creatures eat one another — and a kinky, quasi-sexual scene.
“So, it’s an anteater,” he says. “And its tongue enters the ant hole, and there’s this submissive ant, and it’s sort of like ‘Eat me!’”
The piece is less open to interpretation than his other work. “I’m an aboriginal person, and this is my version of aboriginal art,” he says. “My work is nature-based but sort of abstract and psychedelic; you might see something somebody else doesn’t.” It’s also his first painting with an overtly sexual element.
He chose the anteater in part because it was easy to make the animal’s gender ambiguous. “It’s not clearly male, female or anything in between; it sort of transcends gender,” he says. “It’s more inclusive, and [inclusivity] is a big part of Venus Envy’s mandate.”
“I’m interested to see how other artists contributing to the show address the theme. There may be a lot of hardcore sexual pieces, which is great,” he says. “I just thought it’d be a whimsical, fun thing to do for the show, having this anteater taking on this ant.”