THE JUNGLE HUSBAND
.M CONTEMPORARY, SYDNEY
I received a collection of poems by Stevie Smith for my twenty seventh birthday. Unfamiliar with her work, my friend told me that I would find her writing humorous and imaginative. This was true, and particularly so about ‘The Jungle Husband’. Its imagery resonated with me tremendously. And for years I would favour it as a text for illustration students to interpret as a visual narrative. Now, no longer teaching, returning to the story as I always do, I decided to draw my own version of it. Looking at each line of the poem individually, I created a series of portrait moments for Smith’s troubled character.
. . .
Taylor’s jungle husband is in conversation with himself. He is alone in his wilderness, except for the company of an imaginary friend, and the occasional appearance of the devil. Dressed confidently, he seems familiar and at ease with the nature of things in his private world. He is, in Taylor’s depiction, the jungle’s husband.
In his portrait drawings, Taylor explores notions around masculinity, selfhood, and personal mythology. Themes of disillusionment, escapism, solitude, and longing, were important for the artist’s own interpretation of Stevie Smith’s poem. Contradicting the idealised image of a husband, this character represents an antihero for Taylor.