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Hong Kong in EcoArt

Martin Lever (left) and photographer William Furniss
Artist Martin Lever (left) and photographer William Furniss

Nature has inspired artists and poets forever, but tragically for today’s creatives, environmental degradation can spoil an otherwise perfect view.

No-one knows that better than Hong Kong-based artist Martin Lever, whose dismay at seeing ocean waste washed up on his local beach at Lantau has led to an innovative fightback campaign.

With the scourge of excess packaging and single-use plastic items firmly in sight, Mr Lever teamed up with friend and photographer William Furniss to create ArtVplastic, a bespoke collection of stunning original artwork celebrating Hong Kong's precious coastline.

The ArtVplastic collection is for sale online through Plastic Free Seas, a Hong Kong-based environmental charity and education portal, with proceeds used to create interactive, locally relevant content and lesson-planning tools for teachers to use in Hong Kong schools.

Tracey Read, Founder and CEO, Plastic Free Seas, said the organisation strives to meet all the increasing requests it receives to give presentations at Hong Kong kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. The online resources being produced will have a far greater reach, enabling teachers to freely download and integrate material into their curriculum in their own time.

Making a Difference

Above Discovery Bay
Above Discovery Bay, one of Martin Lever’s abstract artworks in the ArtVplastic collection

Mr Lever’s interest in conservation issues began with his writing a series of children’s books, called The BogeyBugz, featuring the adventures of viral ‘blobs’ on a mission to save the planet from environmental disaster. After moving to Lantau from the city, the long-time Hong Kong resident saw first-hand the “heart-breaking” amount of rubbish being washed up on beaches – and decided to use his artistic talent to make a difference.

“I was looking for a charity to partner with, and Plastic Free Seas, with its educational element, was perfect,” said Mr Lever, who believes mindset change should start with the young.

His works for ArtVplastic depict the artist’s signature abstract style, looking down onto scenes from his favourite Hong Kong beaches.

Mr Lever hopes that using art as the forum to convey environmental messages may lead people to stop and think.

“Art intrinsically has the power to get people to look at things from a different perspective,” he said.

Time to Act

print of water
A limited edition print of water in a Hong Kong typhoon shelter by William Furniss

The artist also believes that ArtVplastic is timely. “Two years ago, no-one was talking about ocean pollution – now everyone is,” he said.

Photographer William Furniss agrees. He has contributed nine limited edition prints to the ArtVplastic collection, each shot in one of the Hong Kong typhoon shelters which he finds provide artistic inspiration.

“I love the way water in the shelters reflects the city’s buildings and neon lights,” said Mr Furniss, who is troubled by the floating rubbish he also sees in there.

The first of the online learning tools funded by sales from the ArtVplastic collection should be uploaded to Plastic Free Seas’ web site by the end of July, with more to follow over the coming months. Initially, the lessons will be published in English, and later in Cantonese as well.

Art For the Birds

Hong Kong Bird Watching Society has an innovative environmental campaign of its own.

In 2016, the society joined with BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation NGOs, to launch Hong Kong Birds Eco-Art, a program combining conservation and creativity to bring its message to a wider public.

Christina Chan, the society’s Assistant Manager, Education, Art Development and Communication, said the idea came after observing how many artists of all genres had been inspired by the vivid colour and beauty of birds. “Our intent was to encourage people to observe and appreciate nature, inspiring them to help conserve it,” said.

The program, which is open to the public, involves an occasional series of guided tours of natural habitats, and workshops inviting participants to interpret Hong Kong’s myriad bird life in an interesting way. For Light Stencils, participants learned how to cut out silhouettes and use a flashlight with long exposure photography to uniquely portray the species coming to winter in Hong Kong, or pass by the city on their annual migration.

Another workshop took participants to a natural fishpond in San Tin to observe and photograph visiting birds foraging or resting on a floating platform.

To capture the quirks and foibles of different bird species in flight, one workshop taught participants about using continuous shooting and time-lapse photography.

Hundreds of people have participated to date, and for the wider enjoyment, selected photographs have been displayed at various locations in the city. The next Hong Kong Birds Eco-Art event will be held later this year.

Related Links
BirdLife International 
Hong Kong Birdwatching Society
Martin Lever
Plastic Free Seas
William Furniss 


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