PROTECTING THE EVIRONMENT THROUGH THE ARTS
This month, OUTLOOK speaks to three local artists who specialise in different art forms but draw their inspiration from one unique element - Nature. The three artists who focus on photography, videography or painting, discuss what inspires their work, their current projects and whether they have a favourite spot around the Maltese islands which inspires them.
Guido Bonett – Photographer
Ever since I was a child, nature always fascinated me. Having spent some time living abroad, I was introduced to the concept and meaning of nature conservation. The ‘70s and ‘80s were challenging times for conservationists in Malta, but my commitment to the cause saw me get involved in various local societies and also participating in European regional conferences.
Although I had always been keen on nature photography, in 2003, with the advent of the 'digital age' I decided to take the plunge and take up nature photography in earnest.Apart from working in the local scene I have also participated in a number of European Union-funded research projects abroad which the University of Malta was involved in, as a visual technologies specialist and nature photographer. When working locally I often find myself at Ta' Cenc in Gozo. I find the environment there inspirational. The solitude, large expanse of garigue and abundance of nature can be described as spiritual. I always hope that my photography can be an eye opener and inspiration to others on the importance of conserving the natural wonders that surround us. This in fact was the main drive behind my latest publication 'The Natural History of the Maltese Islands as seen through a Photographer's Lens’.
Shaun Arrigo – Producer and Cameraman
I am lucky to say that I come from a family background connected to the sea. I took my first scuba plunge at the age of eight years and have never stopped. When I started off, fish was very abundant and the natural thing for me to do was to follow in my father’s footsteps – hunt and eat! This all changed in the 90s when fish was on the decline. At that point I dropped my harpoon and picked up my first camera, the fact that I could now capture light in motion, said it all – a real slice of time. What really inspired me to produce environmental features was actually the lack of such media productions, especially at the time when I first started and I simply wanted to show and share the beauty of what lies beneath. I compare the island to a large aircraft carrier where the only escapism and beauty lies in what surrounds us, the sea. So for me, that's all I need to feel inspired. All three islands have their inspiration, but the ultimate place for me to get a rush of excitement would be Dwejra – it has it all! I am currently working as part of a team, on two documentaries for the University of Malta, both are based on two conservation sites, one is Rdum Majjessa and the other is Dwejra.
Victor Falzon – Artist
I always had a passion for all things natural, maybe because I hail from nature-starved Senglea. At the same time I also had this overriding craving for drawing. Naturally, the two passions soon met and merged, and in my teens when I joined MOS (BirdLife of old), my sketches found a ready niche in the organisation’s publications. I was so proud of my first published bird drawing – an osprey – way back in 1977. Three decades on, I am still elated to see my work in print, but what keeps me sketching today is the need to share nature, especially with children. As people become increasingly detached from the countryside, it is vital that we re-introduce children to nature’s protagonists. When I wrote and illustrated a little bird identification book, it was expressly to make children aware of the birds around them. It seems to be working, so I am currently working on a number of parallel projects. I also use my art to drum home the environmental message, and I can think of no better example than Xummiemu. That spiny little creation of mine became every ’90s child’s darling, and his antics and mantras, I am sure, converted many of them – all adults now – to a greener way of living. As a teacher, I believe education is our best hope to win the fight against environmental destruction. In this battle, my weapon of choice is art.