Perhaps more of these kinds of messages, delivered through mediums that resonate deep within the Chinese psyche like Shan Shui paintings, can help broaden the debate, spark lasting awareness, and affect change on the complex issues behind most environmental problems.
This is what I wrote in the Shan Shui: Environmental Art Ekostory a few weeks back. Last night, I stumbled upon the intriguing work of artist Yao Lu, titled Yao Lu’s Landscape, at barbourdesign.wordpress.com:
Early Spring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Literally translated as “mountain water”, Shan Shui is a specific style of Chinese landscape art that rose to prominence in the 5th century during the Liu Song Dynasty (wikipedia). In the depiction of pristine rivers, ethereal mists, and hallowed mountains, the artist’s ultimate goal is to capture the ch’i, or vital breath, of the world around them. This ch’i must be caught even at the expense of realism, for if the artist misses it, they have lost the very essence of the landscape. In this way, Shan Shui paintings are only expressions of art, but also provide insight into how the artist, influenced by culture and society, views the natural world.
I recently came across the work of a modern artist who sought to introduce modern human presence and impact into Shan Shui paintings. Commissioned by the China Environmental Protection Foundation, Yong Liang Yang utilizes the traditional art style in ads to promote awareness of major environmental problems. The paintings and the associated video highlight the effects of rapid industrialization and urbanization within a Chinese context, providing insight into modern cultural perceptions of nature, environmental protection, and sustainability. The following are my musings.
BOTANICALS: Environmental Expressions in Art, by ArtPlantae Today
“Isaac Sutton believes in the importance of integrating a garden and art into daily life. They transport us from the rigors of an urban life and nurture us in body and spirit. Through observation, education, cultivation and practice, we learn to be more aware of the importance of a symbiotic relationship with the natural world, and we realize that we must value and protect it for future generations.”
– Co-curator, Alice Marcus Krieg, Integrating the Garden and Art Collection
I recently discovered a great website called ArtPlantae Today that seeks to connect artists, naturalists, and educators through the art of botanical drawings. Having little personal talent, I find myself consistently awed by the detailed intricacies of these illustrations and their ability to convey the ethereal and delicate beauty of the plant world.
It is on this website that I came across Botanicals: Environmental Expressions in Art, an exhibition showcasing the largest private collection of contemporary botanical drawings in North America. In his introductory essay titled A Passion for Nature and Collecting, Isaac Sutton tells his own personal story, reflecting on how his childhood and adult experiences ignited his love for nature and awakened a deep concern for the environment. He speaks of the role of art in helping connect people to the natural world in mind, body, and soul. I invite you to look through the samples and check out the essays.
Isaac’s Hummingbird (Archilochus isaaci), by artistatexit0
I am always grateful when someone finds something of value from my essays, but I never expect anyone to be inspired enough by my words to create something. So it came as a delightful surprise to read about the discovery of a rare species of hummingbird from one of my favourite blogs.
I’ve featured artistatexit0′s work on Ekostories before – he has a talent for creating whimsical stories and sculptures out of natural and man-made artifacts that charm and educate. This latest post is no different, so please check it out.
As I noted in The Changing Countryside, art can be a powerful platform for conveying environmental messages and raising ecological literacy. Most of us have been touched by a particularly poignant painting, a soulful song, an intricate sculpture. In instances where the written word seems insufficient to describe the essence of an idea or a concept, art can bypass our rational centers to evoke resonance and convey meaning. Instead of thinking, we first feel it deep in our core, in our soul.
I felt the message when I first flipped through Belonging, a wordless picture book by Jeannie Baker. An artist and an author, Baker specializes in the creation of intricate shallow-relief multimedia collages. Primarily used as illustrations in her books, the collages have also been part of public art collections displayed in London, New York, and Australia. Each wordless double-page spread in Belonging is an astonishing depiction of a setting through time; each panel is packed with details and textures rich and subtle, providing a visual feast for the eyes and an experience for the mind.
In this entry, I’ll be exploring two of her books. Window speaks of urban encroachment into the countryside. Belonging is a story about the revitalization power of nature and the role an individual can play in the community. These two wordless books combine to create a complex and engaging narrative suitable for people of all ages.
The Time Traveler, Another Found Object Story, by artistatexit0.
While researching for my Pikmin piece, I was reminded of the stories from Artist at Exit 0 Riverblog. One of the most creative blogs I’ve had the pleasure to come across, the artist utilizes pieces of Styrofoam and other debris found along the riverbank to construct unforgettable characters and sculptures; a fantastical story is usually woven around those creations. Like the Pikmin games, each blog post represents an exercise in creativity and speculation, always told with charm and whimsy while containing subtle commentary about our culture of consumption. This link below is one of my favourite entries: I invite you to check it out!