Monday, 1 May 2017

Art for Nature's Sake

  It always seems to me that artists, photographers and musicians appear to have a special connection to the natural world. Maybe, because of their creative empathy, they have a heightened sensitivity to the world's, beauty, wonder and awe.

  Whenever a fundraiser is organised to protect forests, bushland or marine environments, guess who always put their hands up first to contribute time and talent? Yes the financially challenged artists. And when my local paper, the Manly Daily, asks for photographic contributions from the readership...the subsequent published works invariably seem to be of seashores, birds, animals or trees.

  It’s a strange compulsion that beckons humanity to paint but, like many others, I too was drawn to examine and attempt to represent some of the miracles of nature through art. I could never hope to do any of it justice of course. In fact to me, nature, at every level, is already in a state of perfection (although human behaviour is probably the exception to that general rule).  In an era when the world is losing so much of its precious wild things and wild places...just capturing it on canvass, began to seem a futile waste of time.  

  So, I decided to try and convey an environmental message through the imagery. At least that way it seemed slightly more constructive. Maybe I could, in a very minor way, help communicate the urgent plight of our world to a new audience and gradually, bit by bit, collective consciousness might work to turn things around?  OK OK its a ridiculous concept but it’s all I've got to work on at the moment!!

 Here are a few examples of my small scale environmental campaigning through art.


This piece, titled "Ascension" represents the view, looking up to the sky, through trees in a forest clearing. Conversely, others feel it is more indicative of looking down into a deep ocean. The materials used are acrylics, inks and bitumen on sheet aluminium 



This work, using similar materials,is titled "Feeling a bit Fragile". It represents a frenzied planet earth under intense stress in a volatile universe.


 There is an old English proverb that states, 'the eyes are the window to the soul.' This saying stems from a passage in the Bible, Matthew 6:22-23. According to Scientists, patterns in the iris can give an indication of whether we are warm and trusting or neurotic and impulsive. I'm fascinated by the deep and inscrutable eyes of reptiles. There seems to be an ancient but impenetrable wisdom emanating from those dark pools of life. This image was painted on canvas using acrylic paint,inks and bitumen.




A highly regarded local environmentalist used to hold an annual fundraiser to help protect Tasmania's ancient forests from industrial logging. This painting is called "The Last Tree Standing" and represents a devastated landscape with one sole tree surviving...a casualty of such rapacious logging practices. In Tasmania, large areas of forests are clear-felled, bulldozed and burnt- the trees being wood-chipped and sent to Japan to be made into paper. In recent times some of the high conservation forests were given World Heritage status and protected as part of a momentous agreement between the logging industry and environmentalists.


The Australian government wants to log these ancient trees once more.
 Australia's Prime Minister (and local MP), Tony Abbott, sought to de-list 74,000 hectares of these unique forests from the World Heritage register, making them once more accessible for logging and taking us back to the dark ages.


This painting represents the precious ocean environment that encircles Sydney. In fact there are more marine species found inside Sydney Harbour than around the whole coastline of Britain!  The NSW government is currently working to reduce marine sanctuary protection and has put a moratorium on declaring any new Marine Parks.  


Recently on Manly Beach, community members gathered to protest against weakening marine sanctuary protection.


This piece, called "Green Confessions" was exhibited in the 2013 Warringah Art prize within the "Waste to Art" category. It was produced using paper, paint and inks on an sheet aluminium base.  Warringah Council replaced their Flannel Flower logo (representing our local native flora) with a soulless stylized W shape. This work included numerous Flannel Flowers with the word "sold" emblazoned across them. This was to represent the ongoing loss of our beautiful, and colourful, bushland with the ugly sprawl of encroaching housing developments. The change of logo, without community consultation seemed to epitomise this bleak scenario.


This piece was hung in the Warringah Art Exhibition in 2000. At that time there was a huge community campaign to stop the "Ardel" housing development at Frenchs Forest destroying pristine bushland in the Manly Dam catchment. Its long term effect would also reduce water quality and impact on aquatic fauna (such as the unique Climbing Galaxias fish). The metallic fish skeletons with the title "Manly Dam's Future" contributed to the protest.



"Echidna Speaks" is a small 'Waste to Art' sculpture which was a finalist in the 2016 Northern Beaches Art Prize.  Made from salvaged, scavanged and discarded materials, it highlighted the threat to wildlife from the proposed Manly Vale School expansion. Rather than adopt the original concept design Dept of Education Planners wish to situate new premises on top of the school's outdoor education area. Fire regulations mean that habitat for 6 threatened species will have to be cleared for a huge fire break if this design proceeds.



This is a photograph (using a macro lens) of some tiny mould spores on a gardening glove. It was one of five works chosen for display in the 'Four Elements Earth' exhibition in Nov 2016 (Northen Beaches Creative Space). The message here is that we tend to ignore the fragile beauty all around us whilst only valuing distant views.  If people can really appreciate the small miracles in their surroundings..maybe they'll be more protective of nature??



Another semi abstract image with an environmental message. This time the viewer has to piece together their own sentance from ellusive words scattered amidst the disembodied eyes. The gist is that the natural wealth of the world is being spruiked and sold off to "customers".


This piece is painted on aluminium and the design created using a sgraffito technique.  It pays homage to indigenous art.


This is a photograph (using a macro lens) of a brown striped marsh frog tadpole -filmed on top of a delicately decomposed leaf.  My love of nature emanated from observing the teeming but largely unnoticed world within a backyard pond.


This image is of frentetically interweaving tubes, worm or snake like structures...incredibly ..whilst I was painting it...I was visited 3 times by a real life green tree snake !! (see below)