Second only to his concerns over the impact of human activity on the natural environment, Geoff Williams held a belief that the globally dominant path of Speciesism is a trajectory upon which humanity might eventually find ruination.

The public consciousness has recently become aware of the environmental impacts of mass exploitation within the domestic animal product sectors, which is perhaps an obvious manifestation of this theory, however Geoff’s work tended to explore a more subtle and quietly spiritual connection with predominantly native wildlife.

How do we define Speciesism? From the 1970’s onwards the term has been widely used within both animal rights advocacy and universal morality debates. British psychologist Richard D. Ryder is given credit for minting the original word, arguing that since the work of Charles Darwin “…scientists have agreed that there is no ‘magical’ essential difference between humans and other animals, biologically-speaking. Why then do we make an almost total distinction morally? If all organisms are on one physical continuum, then we should also be on the same moral continuum.”

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”

Alice Walker

In 1985 the Oxford English Dictionary defined speciesism as “discrimination against or exploitation of animal species by human beings, based on an assumption of mankind’s superiority”. Curiously, to elevate the term so that it shared status with Racism and Sexism, this would need to flow both ways, assuming a non-human entity was sentient enough to discriminate in the usual manner. That aside, this definition is fairly easy to understand and arguments for and against our ongoing “Speciest” behaviour  are plentiful.

“Today there exists a pervasive cultural socialisation that ensures that many take our oppressive relationship to other species as “natural”. It is this, combined with vested corporate and state interests, that maintains exploitation on an unimaginable scale.”

Geoff once wrote that “the stillness of a painting gives us time to reflect on the life that such a rich environment supports“. This was in regard to Rainforest, but his work on specieism certainly carried the same contemplative tone. Many images depict animals displaced, yet as calm as if they were within thier natural habitats.

Geoff captured silent encounters, inviting wildlife into our homes and into our workplaces, allowing us an opportunity to connect. Often juxtaposed with trinkets of western civilisation, these displaced creatures subtly call into question our daily habits and attitudes towards nature.

Gentleness and humour bubble to the surface in much of Geoff’s work, especially upon first viewing, but soon the underlying angst and frustrations creep in. This leaves us in a state of “uncomfortable joy”, a feeling I would usually associate with political satire. It’s a successful balance, which allows Geoff’s art to be considered both beautiful and thought provoking.

“You’re all wonderful.”

Geoffrey David Williams
1942 – 2015