This series of screenprints presented by Edinburgh artist Sharon Whyte all relate to so-called ‘learned’ or ‘educated’ animals, a true oddity of magic and performance history. They reached the height of their popularity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the various claims stated on playbills and other ephemera include their ability to tell the time, read and spell, perform arithmetic and do tricks with cards. The surviving playbills, reviews, posters, songs and books that relate their history form the backbone of this series of screenprints (all of which are hand printed by the artist). The intention is to convey the playfulness with which such entertainments were both presented and received in their time and to celebrate a unique piece of history using colourful imagery mixed with original ephemera. This is the exhibition catalogue for the series, which went on show at various venues in the UK in 2009.
I am a visual artist living and working in Scotland. I am also currently undertaking a project of social and historical research which is related to my artistic area of interest. My art practice has for the past two years focused around my interest in the history of unusual types of performance and involves lengthy periods of research, searching archives and integrating theatre ephemera directly into the work. I rent a studio in Portobello, near Edinburgh, from Out of the Blue Arts & Education Trust and am a member of Edinburgh Printmakers and the Society of Scottish Artists.