Natasha van Netten’s Southern Residents is a collection of drawings, paintings and installation works that focus on one of British Columbia’s most iconic animals. From delicate lines made with steel to tiny drawings of immense creatures, these artworks highlight the duality of fragility and strength found in Southern Resident killer whales.
This exhibition contains a collection of small ink drawings in shadow boxes. Influenced by museum displays and zoological drawings, these works bring attention to the individual—showing the unique physical differences between Southern Residents. This collection represents specific members and shows the variations in their saddle patches, the white/grey markings on their backs, aiding researches in orca identification. The drawings are suspended like scientific specimens, bringing attention to their delicacy and giving them the appearance of swimming.
SUPERPOD, the installation of hanging orca, focuses on the value and importance of each individual within J, K and L pods. These three-dimensional drawings depict killer whales at a 1/30 scale to real life and show the population composition of adult males, adult females and juveniles. This is the sixth public installation of SUPERPOD since its creation in 2019. Each time it has been altered to reflect the changing Southern Resident population—sometimes removing individuals, replacing calves with adults and/or adding new calves.
The accompanying work is titled WHALEFALL, which is a term used to describe deceased whales when they sink to the bottom of the sea. This installation of rusting metal forms accounts for each Southern Resident member that has been documented as deceased/missing since research began in the early 1970’s. This growing collection acknowledges members such as Granny (J2) who lived an estimated 105 years and reflects on the importance of these legacies not being lost.
The three black and white drawings of orca clusters are made with gouache, an opaque watercolour-like medium. Each orca represented in these drawings is mid breach. The behaviour of breaching involves an incredible amount of energy as they leap mostly or fully into the air. Researchers wonder why individuals do this and have a variety of theories, including: the possibly of it being a social behaviour, to make a loud sound that travels farther underwater, to rid themselves of parasites, or potentially an act of play. Like a splash, these drawings also radiate from the centre, creating a sense of movement and activity.
Southern Residents explores the fine balance between strength and weakness, both through subject matter and materials. While the Southern Residents are large, muscular, apex predators—they are also fragile and vulnerable.