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Nature as Art

June, 2008
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照片 005 For Australian wildlife artist Steve Morvell, nature as a subject for art has never been a choice. It just chose him.

  His love for nature was fostered during his childhood in the countryside, when his father taught him to love nature and show respect for all living creatures. In addition, his uncle liked birds very much and passed this passion onto him as well.

  His love for nature drove Steve to the teachings of Zen Buddhism, which is like Chinese Taoism, is based in nature itself. He has since been convinced that all living things are connected and have inherent beauty.

  Currently 18 of his works are on exhibit at the Beijing Central Art Gallery – all are animals like giant pandas in the Wolong Panda Reserve in Sichuan Province and kangaroos in Australia.

  The panda pieces are the result of his days spent in the Wolong reserve in 2006, where he got the chance to be with and touch a panda named “Wei Wei” in the forest for over an hour; that was an experience he had never dreamed of before.

  “Through my art, I found I could express my love of the natural world in a way that other people could understand. And they can begin to love the same way I do,” says Steve.

  Steve only paints animals he meets in real life. His paintings are never contrived. To him, a real animal is truly real art, and all he does is catch that very moment when the essence of the animal is manifested.

  To paint these animals well, he tries to understand them. To do so, he keeps traveling to different places throughout Australia and all over the world, from Africa to the Pacific Ocean, where he has observed all kinds of animals.

  He often goes out in the wilderness and spends a whole week with a family of animals, without seeing other humans. Being alone with animals so frequently even makes him “sometimes think like an animal,” he joked. He has also studied environmental management and read books about animals to give himself a scientific background.

  As a result, his works are an exploration of animals’ unique characteristics. This quality of his work can best be shown by his painting of a small monkey on Mt. Emei in Sichuan Province, where the little thing looks like a helpless and frightened child – a moment that Steve captured when it was cowered from a fierce fight among some big monkeys.

  “If I get a person to stop and understand a little bit more about nature through looking at one of my paintings, then my job is very successful,” said Steve.

  The wildlife artist is deeply committed to environmental issues. Organizations like Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society, Animal Welfare and Trust for Nature all have received considerable donations from the sale and exhibition of his art.

  He also calls on ordinary people to protect nature. “It is not just problems of big companies, or the problem of the government. It’s our problem, because it’s our world… You cannot change the entire world, but you can change your world.”

  For children who want to do something for nature, Steve’s suggestion is that they be true to themselves. “If they genuinely feel they want to do something for the environment, for animals, or for other people and for their community…, they should do everything they can, and not be put off by other people.”Steve Morvell Animal Artist

  In addition, he encourages children to go out and experience nature. “To me, nature is something you feel. You can talk about it for 100 years and you never understand it.”

  Before leaving Beijing, Steve has decided to donate the sales of one of his panda pieces to the Sichuan earthquake relief efforts, while a certain percentage of the sales from his other works will also be donated to the earthquake area by the Beijing Central Art Gallery.

  “The works of pandas come from Sichuan; therefore, there should be something paid back in return,” he said.

By Qin Chuan

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