The Tomb Leopards

Skye Holland | 14 September, 2021

            Skye Holland tomb leopard gold horizontal

The Tomb Leopards

Skye Holland Tomb Leopards

I, like so many have always had a passion for Italy. The light, the way of life, the lyrical language but most importantly, the way that eons of time and civilisation are absorbed into everyday contemporary life and culture. Layers of history and time show up in gentle decay in a way which insistently reminds us we are transients on this earth.   No more important than now - as with recent natural and unnatural events rock mother nature and her welcome to our species as guests. 

In considering an exhibition in Tuscany, I immediately thought of the Etruscan burial sites I have visited whilst staying in Campiglia de Maritime where my sister-in-law’s Italian family have a home.  My research of Etruscan tomb paintings revealed rich depictions of life, real and imagined whilst the souls of their noble dead were sent to another realm.  The Leopards which are depicted in the tombs of Tarquinia (near Rome) caught my attention….   were Leopards roaming Italy in 2,500 years ago?  The answer seems to be not. Leopards had long since vanished from Italian soil, however, trade and hunting of these beautiful animals (probably from forays to northern Africa) was clearly highly valued.

Skye Holland tomb leopards

My work has been focussed recently on the equilibrium of our fragile earth… the 6th wave of extinctions of wild animals and climate change as pushed this issue to the front of our minds.   I lived and worked in South Africa during the 1990’s and along with my young family, trips to the wilderness forged a passion and love of these creatures (most especially the big cats) and their wild habitats.   If we lose them, we will ultimately lose ourselves as a species, it is only a matter of time.

My painting sits between figuration and abstraction, a personal and intuitive language which builds up layers and veils of transparent paint glaze and mark making. Building bones, muscle, skin, features and then pushing back the surface by obliterating and repainting - so that the form is an emergence rather than depiction.   It is in the end an emotional response to the subjects, both decorative and celebratory.   I love the idea that my works could be seen like the ancient frescos and that in some small way, I communicate with those ancient artists as well as speaking directly with my contemporary audience.