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This Is Northern New South Wales


You may have caught sight of some unusual animals on the prowl in Byron Bay this week, but be sure to take a second look – there’s much more to Byron-based artist, Christian Palmer’s, series of animal portraits than a brush of paint: each one represents a story, each one asks you to stop and think.

His painting of an elephant, for example, highlights efforts to stop the ivory trade in Singapore; proceeds from the horse portrait go to support an animal sanctuary in Tasmania; the jersey cow offers a critique of the live-export trade. But the connection isn’t always as obvious: Christian’s series of camels speaks to the experience of “boat people” and the issue of refugees.

CG- Christian Palmer elephant

“I wanted to try and relate to their experience and the journey they make – which is a huge journey, a huge upheaval. Camels are imported to this country, and they thrive and create problems for indigenous species with their successful adaption to it. So camels became my refugees.”

Each animal – from exotic tigers to the familiar English bull terrier – has its own character, and finding a connection between that animal and the human experience helps Christian get inside each piece.

“I’m always looking for an angle,” he says. “It’s not necessarily an issue, but if I’m painting an animal, I want it to have a character that I feel relates or can convey a certain point of view.

CG-Christian Palmer Lion

“I like to choose animals that have an edge about them, animals that are representative of an outsider,” he says – a role, he himself is familiar with.

“I was born in London, I’m half Maltese, and I spent my years between the two countries,” he says. “My father lived in Hong Kong, my mother lived on Malta, I was at boarding school in England. I grew up in a micro-bubble, I was always an observer, I felt like I was looking in from the outside.”

While his path through the art world started in London and bounced through Malta, it really came to fruition when he settled in Australia.

CG- Christian Palmer tri

“There’s an eclectic mix of people and there’s a different set of values, which is very grounded yet spiritual,” he says. “It’s kind of living life on your own terms, and that’s what draws people to Byron Bay – that’s certainly what drew me here.”

Christian’s exhibition is on display in the nook between the Byronian Café and Patagonia store on Jonson Street for two more weeks. You can drop by for a chat with the artist himself, he’s there most days after ten.

Visit his website at:

CG-Christian Palmer