Photograph by Juliet Lea


Since prehistoric times we have celebrated the lives of animals in art and daily-life. I see my artwork as a continuation this history. Human representation of animals is a very rich and complex subject of investigation. On one level it is the simple delight of recognition. It reflects a sense of awe and wonder we have for the diversity of other animal species. On another level the representation of animals reveals a complex interrelationship of political and environmental issues. As an artist with a concern for animal welfare I have employed a variety of approaches that consistently examine these relationships. It has been my journey for over 30 years.

Names we give to animals creates meaning for their lives. Formed in history, animal names originate from early hieroglyphics and pictograms or other linguistic, sensory observations of their behaviour; the sounds they make, their shape, size, colour or their usefulness or threat to humans. Animal totems, myths, folklore, literature, illustrations and taxonomies created by humans give meaning to animal lives. This generates an idea of an individual animal that has little connection to its actual existence. In reality it is about how humans perceive the world.

In the form of sculpture, collaboration and drawing my artwork takes a critical view of the social, political and cultural construction of the lives of animals. I am interested in the language we use to construct an understanding of an animal. My sculptures employ a variety of materials. They are illustrations of animals created through a poetic synthesis of material and language.

In 1998 I completed a course in Natural History Illustration at the Royal College of Art in London. This was undertaken through the patronage of the Anne and Gordon Samstag Scholarship programme. When I returned to Australia a few years later I began living on a sheep farm near Michelago on the outskirts of Canberra. As a Canberra-based artist with an interest in animals, life on the land provides an opportunity to experience a range of domesticated and wild animals. It has also introduced me to the realities of drought. I responded to the hardships of farm life by producing a series of sculptures made from painted sheep skulls and a performance with my hand reared ‘poddy’ lamb. The work is called willow pattern, 2004. Full of pathos it is an attempt to find beauty in despair.

Since a child growing up in the bush in South West Western Australia I have been fascinated by snakes. This interest led to completing a Doctorate at the Australian National University on the topic of bronze and snakes in 2016. Following this research, I had the honour to exhibit my work at the Australian Society of Herpetologists conference in 2014 and in 2016 I created a Presidential crown for the society.

In 2020 I completed the Military Working Dogs Memorial called circling into sleep at the Australian War Memorial.

Thanks for your interest in my work.

would you like to commission a sculpture?

Steven Mark Holland


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