During 2003-2004 Waddell traveled to Thailand as an Australian volunteer. He says he couldn’t help but document his immediate environment. The journey gave Waddell invaluable insights into the social hierarchies of village life which were repeatedly dominated (for men) by the ritualised practice of cockfighting. A concept was embedded in the artist’s subconscious during his travels through Thailand but remained unresolved at that time.
The effects of poverty and unemployment combined with boredom to create an atmosphere of general dissatisfaction among the male populace of the villages. Waddell notes the enthusiasm with which this void was filled with a mixture of drinking, gambling and cockfighting.
Each breeder poured energy into the occupation of ‘training up’ a successful rooster, creating a prime fighting spirit that often ironically resembled their own temperament. The humanistic profiles of Henry and Randy suggest preconceived personalities through stiff upper beaks and upright combs, confirming their position as the heads of the exhibition, champions in their fields.
Waddell insists the transference of these ideas to canvas occurred without direct correlation to his travels, referring to his documentation as a foundation, built on once back in his studio with a combination of memory, sketches used as references and photography. Returning to Australia also confirmed his suspicion that the aforementioned social behaviours were not unique to Thailand but universally manifest.
There exists a mysterious sense of deception which Waddell initiates through the glazed eyes of each specimen. The finely arranged plumage and alluring qualities are masks of convenience, filling a void.