Charismatic megafauna are animal species – such as elephants, giant pandas, and penguins – that are so appealing, so recognizable that their physical appearance takes on a symbolic value. That value is often put to use by environmentalists to attract support for various causes. Another animal included in charismatic megafauna is the tiger. Their feline features and distinctive stripes make them easily distinguishable across many cultures and time periods.
In Tibet, the tiger traditionally symbolizes status, ferocity and bravery. Tiger pelts are seen as a sign of power for kings and other figures of authority. Thrones were adorned with tiger pelts and rugs, gods were depicted riding tigers, and warriors were buried wearing tiger skins, their graves painted with tiger imagery.
Tigers continue to hold our attention even in our modern pop culture. There’s Tony the Tiger, Hobbes of Calvin and Hobbes fame, and lest we all forget, the Netflix series, Tiger King.
There’s a lot of history that comes along with Janos Korodi’s one-word title for his print on matte archival paper: Tiger. At first look, Tiger struck me as somewhat whimsical.Deconstructed, but still, the outline and distinctive markings of a tiger are apparent. I thought of storybooks I re ad as a child. But as I considered it further, it started to remind me of a kind of ancient luxury more akin to the Tibetan tradition. I thought of an opulent room covered in the kinds of rugs and furs we would never use today; technology has made the playing field too uneven and tigers have dwindled in number. Their population has declined by 95% since the beginning of the 20th century (which, incidentally, makes their status as charismatic megafauna all the more poignant).
Korodi’s fur series symbolizes “a kind of ancient act”. He created the paintings from memories of fur patterns that were used as protection, as guardians, as wall coverings, and as rugs. The series plays with the idea of obscuring a space — hiding instead of showing.
This deceptively simple, deconstructed work carries with it a lot of stories to tell. The work fits in nicely with the tradition of tigers to adorn our spaces, imbuing them with some of that strength, distinctiveness, and meaning. It finds itself in good company when you consider the tigers that have come before it and those that will surely follow it.