How green is your muse? An appreciation and a wake-up call

White Carpet by Esmie McLaren | Photo courtesy of Esmie McLaren

Celebrate nature at The Filipino Music and Art Foundation’s new exhibition of nature-themed artwork at Surrey Art Gallery. How Green Is Your Muse? is a collaborative project, displayed until Feb. 2, consisting of thirty-four contributions from 12 different Filipino-Canadian artists.

How Green Is Your Muse? is first and foremost an appreciation of nature from artists who derive their inspiration from nature’s beauty. Twelve established and emerging Filipino-Canadian artists share their own personal experiences with nature by depicting subjects ranging from childhood forages into nature to the devastating weather events impacting the Philippines. Using a variety of media, ranging from traditional paintings to abstract pieces using recycled-material, the twelve artists remind gallery-goers of nature’s beauty and warn of the devastating effects of climate change.

Why you should climb a tree

The theme of nature really resonated with me,” says Danvic Briones, a painter and a graphic artist. “My paintings are all memories of childhood. When I was a child, we had nature as a toy. We used the air to fly kites and the trees to climb.”

Briones’ contributions consist of three paintings that use a mix of oil and acrylic paint carved onto recycled wood. Briones chose familiar subjects of his childhood in the Philippines, recalling fond memories of climbing trees; making little structures out of leaves; and generally discovering the wonders of nature. At the same time, Briones laments how children’s imaginations are restricted by their dependence on technology. In Nature Climb, Briones explores how climbing a tree was a way of satisfying his curiosity and exploring the environment. Through the painting, he hopes to teach the value of nature as a playmate and a source of fun.

“If you make nature part of your play, it’s limitless,” says Briones. “Don’t be boxed in by technology.”

We are all connected

Nature Climb by Danvic Briones | Photo courtesy of Danvic Briones

I wanted to raise awareness for the environment, and I wanted to engage everyone,” says Esmie Gayo McLaren. “It’s no longer just being concerned for the future, because the effects of climate change are being felt now. It isn’t someone else’s problem, and we each have to do something about it.”

McLaren was born in the Philippines and moved to Canada when she was 12. Growing up in Alberta, she described her transition from the Philippines to Canada to be very fast. Today, McLaren is an esteemed painter who works with oil painting and watercolor. In White Carpet, McLaren depicts a park in Vancouver during springtime. The paintings tell the story of how a couple of squirrels stole some tulip bulbs, and eventually forgot about them. The tulips then naturalized in the squirrel’s hiding spot, sprouting new life where there wasn’t any before. White Carpet reminds gallery-goers that all life exists on a web of connections, and how climate change harms all living beings.

“White Carpet got me thinking, if the park setting were to disappear, there’d be so many living things left without a home,” explains McLaren.

Beautiful British Columbia

Ferdinand Barrameda Maravilla, nicknamed “Chito,” is a graphic designer and part-time painter. After migrating to Canada nearly 17 years ago, Chito started out designing childrens’ playgrounds. Chito’s contribution of found-object collages deviates from his usual medium of painting. One collage, titled Paraiso, is constructed from an old 1973 BC car plate and crossed-stitched cupids. Chito explains the statement “Beautiful British Columbia” is not just a slogan printed on car plates, rather, it was British Columbia’s bragging rights and pride. The cupids represent the young people to whom the world is entrusted to. The collage in its entirety serves to remind people British Columbia is truly blessed with natural wonders, and warns not to squander those blessings for the sake of young people.

“My art is a conscious effort of recycling discarded materials made useful again as a medium for my art,” explains Chito. “It’s a warning of how beauty can be altered by decay if we are not careful.”

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