New Zealanders are a pretty proud bunch, which should come as no surprise given we've got a lot to be proud of! This rings particularly true when it comes to our love of the outdoors and the emphasis we place on the preservation of our unique forest biodiversity. What many don't realise is the extent to which this pride in our natural heritage influences newcomers to our country and becomes an inter-cultural commonality within the melting pot of New Zealanders.
For artist Weilun Ha, a second generation kiwi and proud 'Westie', a simple bush walk with friends two years ago proved a pivotal and inspirational occasion. It was during this walk that Weilun first came across a kauri dieback boot-cleaning station, learned of the disease, the impact it has on kauri forest ecosystems, and resolved to incorporate his love of the natural world with his passion for art.
Subsequently, he created his first gallery supported exhibition entitled 'Gods of the Forest' which promotes advocacy for kauri and the devastating kauri dieback disease.
Under the tutorship of a Lingnan master of traditional Chinese painting and the support of Lopdell House Gallery, Weilun developed his unique style. By combining the Lingnan philosophy of 'balancing the Chinese and foreign, ancient and modern' with his own dash of 'kiwiana' flair, Wei sees his work as a vehicle to translate and communicate deeper issues across cultures. The result of this union is an architectural corridor of painted panels, which in Weilun's words "capture a story through time and space" and feature life-like representations of native bush in both its glory and demise. This story is portrayed via dominant black and white panels which he uses to represent the past and the future, and contrasted against a selection of coloured panels representing the current situation of kauri. Bleeding gum and defoliated branches cast a grim image against flitting fantails and cruisy keruru, to show both destruction and hope for a brighter future for kauri and native biodiversity.
Fortunately for us, Weilun's desire to communicate other important conservation plights through his art doesn't stop here, citing issues such as shark-finning, snapper quotas and paua poaching as close to his heart and next on the agenda!