25 Jan - 19 Feb 2019

Vancouver Arts Centre

Albany, Western Australia

A short film by Luke Griffiths and Michelle Bunting from my 'MOTH' solo exhibition

Chelsea has been developing artwork during the past 12 months for her first solo exhibition at the Vancouver Arts Centre, Albany, Western Australia. She was offered the exhibition as part of the City of Albany Acquisitive Prize, as winner of the Great Southern Art Award 2017. Her work has developed through a range of representations of the MOTH, these elusive and little understood insect creatures, known in the scientific world as belonging to the order Lepidoptera.

“The main reason for painting moths and butterflies in the first place was for the feeling they represented for me - an image that reminded me of a feeling. I didn't do them to make pretty paintings. Both butterflies and moths have wings covered in tiny scales and that is where the fascination started for me. When I was looking at the species of butterflies in the local region I realised that the moths were actually more unique and interesting. I feel like the moths are more mysterious and also something that most people don't think of as beautiful or special. They are more overlooked. And I had some great interactions with local moths that made an impression on me”.


Artists through their research of a particular subject matter are able to present a singular, unique vision. In this exhibition, Chelsea leads us through a range of her personal experiences of the MOTH - some appear to be a nod to the ubiquitous collections we may find in the museum, some may be winged monsters, and others are developments of nonfigurative, formal interpretations of the patterns found on the wings of these creatures. These multi-faceted points of view are at the same time interdependent yet able to stand alone.

Chelsea has made great progress in the studio gaining confidence with a range of chosen materials, scale and interpretation of the subject matter. This exhibition is a testament to her perseverance, tenacity and passion to complete the body of work presented – an exciting debut indeed for this young artist.


Paul Moncrieff

Artist and mentor. January 2019

Chelsea has been mentored by artist Paul Moncrieff to develop this solo exhibition, made possible through the ‘Regional Arts Partnership Program’, a Country Arts WA Royalties for Regions investment into arts and culture across WA.


Oil & acrylic on mounted wooden board, white edges. 

60cm x 70cm 


Moth wings (like butterfly wings) are covered in tiny colourful scales, they are beautiful and inspiring. These pieces are based on these scales and the feelings of community, love, connection and relationships. 


'Lepidoptera' is the scientific name for the order (group) of insects that includes butterflies and moths. It literally means 'scaled wing' in Ancient Greek. 'Affinitas' is latin, meaning relationship or community. 

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Acrylic on mounted wooden board, white edges. 

60cm x 70cm  

These pieces are also based on the patterns created by the scales on moth or butterfly wings (order Lepidoptera).

Iris refers to the Ancient Greek goddess or personification of the rainbow. She is a messenger goddess who wore a many hued dress with sandals and golden wings. The word iridescent comes from Iris and it's original meaning. This goddess would move from the earth to the sky or from the sky to the earth, her movement would be seen as the rainbow. These paintings can be hung either way.

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By painting these moths hundreds of times their actual size I feel it gives them the significance, presence and impact to reveal the magical, beautiful and bizzare creatures that they are. It gives me the opportunity to show and emphasise the details of their wings, bodies and antennae as I observe them, without the unique areas of pattern being lost. Standing up close to the painting, due to their massive size, you are forced to take in the areas of pattern, detail, colour and texture in sections – without being able to see the creature as a whole due to the scale of the painting. Moving backwards from the piece the details blur together to make the readily recognisable depiction of the particular species of moth.

I use my paints to emphasise and simplify areas of pattern and detail whilst remaining true to the species. I also incorporate some elements of patterns from tribal cultures that helps to create these moth paintings as symbols, messengers or totems and incoporate my fascination with human survival and the link between human culture and the environment. Moths became a powerful personal symbol for me in my life when my strength and resilience was really pushed to the limit through long term physical illness and other challenges. They represented courage, transformation and intuition for me, which is also true for many cultures in the world. How I represent them in my paintings reflects this; skirting the border between myth, magic and reality; science and art; the mind and intuition.


Oil & acrylic on heavy weight linen 

1.7 x 2.2 metres 

The Helena Gum Moth is a beautiful species found throughout the southern half of Australia incuding southern Queensland and Tasmania. Many people will have seen this species as it is large with a wing-span of 13 to 17cm and abundant. Its larvae feed on various species of eucalypts (gum trees). Its colour can vary from pinkish brown to a more terracotta coloured brown. This is one of my favorites for its beautiful little fuzzy legs and huge antennae, it will readily crawl onto your hand without being frightened and allow you to observe it up close. 

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Oil & acrylic on heavy weight linen 

1.7 x 2.2 metres 


This specimen was photographed by a friend on the Stirling Ranges (mountain range near Albany WA). I loved its bold patterns and huge antenna - huge feathered antenna like this are generally used to scent the pheromones of the female moth and locate them for mating. The larvae of this moth feeds on the iconic Australian wattles (Acacia species) and pupate in a large brown cocoon. The wing span of the actual moth in real life is just 6cm.

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Oil & acrylic on heavy weight linen 

1.7 x 2.2metres 

The Dryandra moth is a unique moth found ONLY in the south-west region of Western Australia. In fact it is the only moth in the entire family of Carthaeidae - making it incredibly special and unique! 


The adult moths fly only at night and when disturbed, lower its head and abdomen and brings its forewings forward to expose the large eye-spots on its hindwings, oscilating from side to side to give the potential attacker the impression it is being watched by two large eyes. Wingspan ranges from 8 to 10cm. The larvae feed on Dryandra shrubs but may also eat Gravillea plants if necessary. The catterpillars also have a row of prominent eye spots down each side of their plump little bodies.

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Oil & acrylic on heavy weight linen 

1.6 x 2.2metres 

For a long time these two moths were mistakenly identified as two different species, when in fact they are not! The female is in white and black with golden accent scales and long segmented antennae, whilst the male has beautiful brown, black and golden scaled patterns and feathery antennae. Unique but equally striking.

They are found in the southern half of Australia. The catterpillars feed on various species of gum trees (eucalyptus trees). And they have a wing span of approximately 5cm. I have painted them both here with their wings closed at rest, which actually hides their incredible rich yellow-orange and black striped furry abdomen!!

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Oil and acrylic on mounted wooden board or canvas. 

25cm x 30cm

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Water soluble artist grade wax crayon on Yuppo paper - framed in double glass with a wooden frame 

SMALL SIZE : 15.5cm x 20cm;   MEDIUM SIZE : 18.5cm x 23cm;   LARGE SIZE :  26 x 31cm; 


Every one of these moths are of an amazing local species from where I live in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. Most are native species, some are introduced or considered agricultural pest species. This is by no means an exhaustive account of all the species found in this region. Given that this is a biodiversity hotspot and there are around 20,000 to 30,000 species of moths in Australia (in contrast to about 240 species of butterflies) this is merely scraping the surface. However very little is known about the majority of our moth species and some took a lot of research to identify with limited available information. 


I drew these from photographs I took, photographs from friends and moth specimens on the CSIRO online database (no moths were harmed in the making of these specimens!) I worked from photographs to avoid disturbing the moths and so I could zoom in to see details not readily visible to the naked eye! Some of these species are quite large in real life with wingspans of around 10cm to 15cm, others are less than 1cm! 


I recommend clicking on the moths and using the expanding arrows in the top right of the viewing window to see the artworks at a larger size so you can appreciate all the little patterns in their wings and abdomens. These are the actual patterns seen in the species, I have not 'invented' any of their amazing features. By drawing them larger than life you can appreciate what you might otherwise completely overlook!

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© Chelsea Hopkins-Allan