In 1998, a significant exhibition entitled The Birds of Black Thursday showcased ten powerful paintings from Ray Ching’s series of the same title. These works had been undertaken as a reflection on, and commemoration of the Black Thursday bushfires in the state of Victoria. The devastation of these 1851 bushfires affected over 5 million hectares of land. It is on record that as the fires spread, birds and other wildlife were dropping from the trees in all directions. It is one such moment that we encounter in this work.
Ching has realised a scene of violent beauty, and there is a real potency to this depiction of a singular plummeting avian life. He has chosen to completely de-contextualize the subject from the surrounding chaotic action in favour of capturing a single moment.
Paintings from the early decades of the artists career, when much of his work served a primarily documentary function, belie a scientific precision and almost microscopic quality. Ching carried this incisiveness and painstaking attention to photographic realism into his work of later years.
Interestingly, through the manipulation of atmospheric conditions there has been a blurred, impressionistic lens applied to the scene. This affords a depth to the work, a challenging and poetic quality which facilitates our engagement with the painting on an even more propound, reflective level Aesthetic considerations aside, this work also goes to the very roots of a message of ecological preservation. Ching celebrates and affirms the beauty and preciousness of avian wildlife. An appreciation of these works encourages us to value and preserve the lives and habitats of these creatures.