King penguins feel the heat

King penguins feel the heat

Title: King penguins feel the heat
Year: 2024
Size: 795mm diameter
Media: Oil on canvas

King penguins, like their closest and larger relatives, the Emperor penguins, do not build nests but lay a single egg, which they incubate on their feet.
Both parents share equal responsibilities over a 50-day incubation period.
Given their breeding and maturity cycle length, their gigantic colonies have occupants all year.
They can live up to 25 years in the wild, and although seal hunters no longer threaten them, as they were in the first half of the 20th century, they now face a second, more insidious challenge. Climate change increasingly separates their sub-Atlantic island breeding grounds from a retreating Polar front abundant with fish, squid, and other marine food.

YAYA (artist):

In this piece, titled “King Penguins Feel the Heat,” I employed oil paints on canvas to convey a powerful message about the impact of global warming on the Antarctic ecosystem. The red hues symbolise the Earth’s magma and heat, while the blue tones represent the vulnerable glaciers threatened by rising temperatures.

The artwork’s focal point is a pair of king penguins, their expressions reflecting surprise and bewilderment as they confront the environmental shifts around them. This scene is inspired by my transformative expedition to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia Island from December 2023 to January 2024.

During my time in South Georgia, I spent hours observing and documenting the behaviours of the king penguins, particularly in Fortuna Bay, where they tirelessly tended to their offspring amidst challenging conditions. This firsthand experience deeply motivated me to translate their plight into art.

Back home, I sifted through hundreds of photographs and notes taken during my expedition, using them as references to capture the essence of the penguins’ struggle against climate change. I opted for bold colours to emphasise the message’s urgency, aiming to evoke empathy and raise awareness about the challenges these majestic creatures endure.

“King penguins feel the heat” marks the beginning of a series of paintings dedicated to shedding light on the threats faced by penguins and their habitats. These paintings testify to their resilience and the urgent need for conservation efforts.


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