Art and Music Highlight the Beauty and Importance of Tropical Marine LifeCatch of the Week
A painting exhibit, book launch, and soundscapes come together to celebrate the beauty and diversity of tropical marine life in “In Tropical Seas,” by marine biologist and artist Jay Maclean.
“In Tropical Seas,” the book and exhibit were launched at The Podium mall in Mandaluyong City, the Philippines, on 18 June 2014, to celebrate Environment Month (June) and coincide with Coral Triangle Day (9 June).
The works served to underscore the importance of marine conservation as well as the longstanding scientific linkages and efforts being undertaken by Philippine and Australian marine biologists and institutions to achieve this goal.
The book is a colorful 56-page publication produced by the Zobel Foundation and United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC). It introduces young readers to tropical marine life and the importance of caring for it. It features paintings and drawings depicting animals, plants and scenes that are commonly seen in the tropical western Pacific Ocean, including Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and northern Australia.
According to Maclean, “inspiration for the book was the absence of similar material for any age group. Countries in tropical areas have long been accustomed to using books from other parts of the world that are not appropriate for the region.”
Jay started working on the book in the late 1980s, taking all of 27 years to finish, and it was the result of him thinking about all the different animals and plants in the tropics and how they fitted together in their ecosystems.
“In Tropical Seas” takes the reader on a visit to the shore and describes life in different habitats in the coastal zone, as he or she ventures from the beach, to the intertidal area, mangrove forest, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. The visuals that accompanied the text was how Jay imagined it to be so that it would be easier to describe it to his son who was in Australia.
“He used to love to look at the rocks and things and I wanted to tell him a little bit about it. So, it took off from that. Over the years, my illustrations improved and I just worked on it very slowly, adding text and pictures and then computerized it as the technology became available,” Jay explained.
“The art style has evolved, I must say, over the years. I began with little pastel drawings to go down the side of the text not knowing much about design. Over the years my painting evolved to be a little bit more idealistic and more colourful than you normally see on the reef. The idea of course was to attract more attention to it, make things a little bit more dramatic, a little bit more colourful,” on explaining his painting style.
The exhibition bearing the same name features many of the illustrations used in the book, as well as newer and older works. Most are large acrylic paintings capturing the immense beauty and fragility of coral reef ecosystems, driving home the themes of interconnectedness, collaboration, and the importance of safeguarding our marine resources.
Adding a fitting mood to the exhibit was the music — soundscapes composed and performed by Jay himself, and made available through a self-produced CD entitled “Reef Songs.” The songs are Jay’s “improvised, spontaneous expressions of life in and around the coral reefs, derived from many years of diving around the tropics and painting fish and reef scenes.”
Jay said the music is “not part of the book, but it was an extrapolation of it and I really wanted to have a multimedia kind of feel about the book so that when people came to look at the book here at the opening of the exhibition, they would be able to feel the atmosphere of the underworld, the scenes that I was painting. So that was it, the writing, the thoughts of education, the music, it all came together.”
The book launch, theme music and painting exhibition were held in partnership with the National Coordinating Committee for the Coral Triangle Initiative (NCCCTI) and the Australian Embassy and made possible through the support of The Podium and Café Mediterranean. The event also coincided with Coral Triangle Day, observed on 9 June, an activity spearheaded by the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF).
Jay Maclean is an Australian marine biologist who has been living and working in the Philippines since 1980, observing and documenting marine life through scientific and artistic means. He is an honorary member of the Angono Artists Association and has exhibited with them and in solo exhibitions. Maclean is also a consultant with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
“In Tropical Seas” the book is available from
E. Zobel Foundation
399 ENZO Blg.,
Sen. Gil Puyat Ave,
Makati City 1200 Philippines
Cell phone: 0917 5777046
“Reef Songs” available on CD. For orders, send email to Jaymaclean2007@gmail.com.