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It’s strange how life comes full circle. For prior to the invention of cameras and smartphones, botanical illustration was the only way that many of the world’s plant species could be recorded. It was the job of artists and illustrators to share images of flora in newly discovered parts of the world.
Singaporean botanical illustrator Lucinda Law recently joined with art and tech non-profit Mesh Minds to help raise awareness of the need to live a greener lifestyle. Law was invited to be the first artist-in-residence at Batu Batu on Pulau Tengah and was asked to capture images of her travels using paint, pencil and paper. What Law recorded would then be turned into a multi-sensory work for MeshMinds 2.0: ArtxTech For Good, ArtScience Museum from 7 to 17 March and it would help raise awareness of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “I knew that spending time at Tengah Island Conservation and Batu Batu would be highly transformative,” said Law.
To create the best possible images for the exhibition, Law spent five days on the island and became fully immersed in the jungle experience. Using the techniques of her predecessors, she trekked deep into the jungle to record the flora and fauna and experienced the same harsh climate. “The tropical heat was immense and the mosquitoes were biting my fingers and face when I stopped to take pictures,” said Law.
Law then joined with the scientists from the Tengah Island Conservation (TIC) team to gain a deeper understanding of the issues that affect the island. Each day at 7am she joined them for a boat patrol around Tengah and the neighbouring seven islands to record turtle nesting activity. She then joined them for visits to all the TIC stations, such as the native tree nursery conservation project and the turtle hatchery.
Though her hard work was worth it. “Seeing the release of newly hatched turtles, and looking at a sea full of sparkling bioluminescence on a full moon night was especially moving and beautiful,” said Law.
But as memorable as these scenes were, Law couldn’t ignore the affect that global warming and humans were having on this picturesque part of the world. Law joined the marine biologist as they removed two giant fish cages that had been placed within the coral reefs of archipelago and then she travelled to a remote island to help with a beach clean-up. Law was astounded to find out they had gathered 77kg of trash in less than one hour. “It was devastating and heart breaking to see packaging from our daily lives wash up on a beach that is not even visited by humans,” said Law.
During her time with the scientists Law also learnt how global warming posed the biggest problem for the island and its inhabitants. Not does the rise in temperature cause coral bleaching and the destruction of the coral reef ecosystem, but it will also create a downward spiral in the turtle population. When the temperature rises dramatically, more females are born and it changes the balance. “They said that one simple way to remember this phenomenon is ‘hot chicks’ and ‘cool dudes’,” said Law.
The scientists invite guests from Batu Batu to join them during their work day and as they inspect their environmental projects. However, this isn’t for entertainment as each activity comes with a serious message. “They want to help make people more mindful and aware of their actions and make some changes,” said Law.
The artworks that Law created during her stay are now on show at the ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. By holding their smartphones over Law’s illustrations, visitors can become immersed in the Malaysian jungle themselves. “People cannot love what they have not seen or experienced,” said Law. “I hope that we can make the audience fall in love with the beauty of nature, which would lead them to want to protect what they love.”
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