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Brendon talks about his series ENDANGERED

This series arose from an encounter with a friend’s five-year-old daughter just before Christmas. The arrival of Christmas beetles was a big part of the holiday build-up when I was a kid in the Sydney suburbs. The metallic beetles would buzz around us at barbecues, sometimes sticking to our skin, hair or clothes with their hook-like legs. They were friendly, harmless and beautiful creatures: large gold bugs, with dashes of blue-green and sometimes purple, like airborne Christmas-tree baubles.

But this child had never seen one. Had they disappeared? Hadn’t I noticed?

It turns out that beetle numbers are in decline because of drought and habitat loss. I began to feel sentimental about my childhood, sad that the beetles were going and that this child didn’t know them, and disappointed that I hadn’t paid attention. I hadn’t really appreciated the nature around me as a child, but now I recalled not just the beetles but also possums, snakes and foxes.

The Endangered series works through ideas of sadness: sadness about falling numbers of these wonderful animals, but also sadness about the missed connections and disappointments of growing up and family life. When I told that little girl about the Christmas beetles, I felt a link to my grandparents and rediscovered experiences I didn’t notice at the time.

The pieces take ages – I worked on Possum for three months – but I love doing them and figuring out the detail and colours. I drew the beetles from life, thanks to a friend catching me a specimen in his garden. Well, I say life, but sadly the model died because I didn’t know how to feed it properly – another layer of sadness.