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Australian art

Western art


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Burnt fox, the You Yangs



Bruce Attwell

New Zealand, Australia

1953 -


This image shows Attwell working in small-scale, highlighting the exquisite delicacy of nature, subtly pointing to its fragility and the ramifications of human encroachment. The decomposing body of a fox becomes part of a delicate tapestry of textures and natural forms. Viewed from above, as if just discovered, the fox lies fallen like the leaves which are scattered around it, its taut neck and tail curling away from the black earth which both frames it and threatens to envelop it as nature’s process of decay unfolds. Bared white teeth appear out of a blackened mouth like a warning, reminding us of the fierceness of the life that once existed and whose departure has bestowed this intimate view of death. The melancholic yet spiritually meditative nature of the work is perhaps in tune with the fabled ‘strange’ ambience of the work’s location, the You Yangs regional park. Situated close to the urban sprawl of Geelong in Melbourne, the damaging impact of human presence on the park, combined with an awareness of the site’s earlier Aboriginal inhabitation, has inspired occasional and unverifiable tales of visitors sensing a spiritual presence ill at ease with human intrusion. This image resonates with the silent tension of a one-on-one encounter, revealing a stark lingering beauty that plays on the human fascination with mortality. Attwell’s pictures are void of people yet the consequences of their actions are mingled with his adoration of nature to create rich, delicate, yet subtle images.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007




Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


11.3 x 15.3 cm image; 12.5 x 16.5 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. original mount, pencil "Bruce Attwell 1985".


Purchased 1986


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Bruce Attwell

Works in the collection


Referenced in 1 publication


Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Magical realism', pg.226-245, Sydney, 2007, 240 (illus.).