When wandering around the Art Lovers Australia website, you surely have noticed the intricate paintings of delicate birds, some of which are so familiar to us from our own backyards, some of which talk to us of far away lands. These paintings are like detailed snapshots of nature in all its graceful beauty.
Shani White, the artist in question, was born in Papua New Guinea in 1979 and now resides in Toowoomba, Queensland. But it is Papua New Guinea where her love of birds and painting derives from. “I paint large scale, expressive, acrylic paintings of cows, elephants and more recently birds…I grew up in Papua New Guinea on an island called Bougainville. My family and I lived in tropical, lush surroundings of mountainous rainforest and only a few minutes away from the ocean. I built a fascination for the surrounding nature and wildlife and appreciated the native animals, their purpose and ours.
My father introduced me to birds, tropical fish, reptiles, nocturnal animals and even feral cats and introduced species. He also instilled an education in me of conservation, protection and ‘taking as many snapshots but only leaving footprints’ when enjoying nature and its wildlife.” The depiction of her childhood, her connection to nature, those memories of times spent and experiences shared with her father and the adult she is now because of that, is all weaved into these paintings.
“I’m often told my art is colourful, cheery and endearing. I like the viewer to be captivated by colour and find beauty in the expressive splashes and charming creatures I paint. Birds have some amazing colours amongst their feathers and such quirky and often striking character, it’s hard not to love [this] beautiful life. For this reason I spend many hours painting them and studying their nature. I feel humbled that I can remind the viewers, through my work, that nature has some outstanding beauty and charm.” She will always paint birds, she says. They have become an essential part of her artistic voice.
Shani has been painting her whole life. “As a child I remember drawing and painting on anything I could find. My mother was always very supportive of my creative obsessions even when she’d find I’d drawn on my new sheets with texta pens while everyone was sleeping. “ After finishing school in 1996, she went to complete a Diploma of Visual Arts and Diploma of Photography and ever since then has been looking to combine her art and artistic goals with the realities of living in the modern society. Like so many artists, she has a day job and at night, she becomes the fascinating visual artist we are getting to know.
But as art is a continuous journey, Shani is looking to find new ways and continue raising awareness through her art. “I’d like to be making more of a statement with my art and creating awareness especially in areas regarding deforestation, habitat loss and destruction or decimation of our wildlife and the planet we share it with. I am currently preparing for a body of work, which includes rare, endangered and even extinct birds. I hope to show these works nationally and perhaps even internationally to remind people of what’s at stake and what’s been lost due to human consumption/greed.”
While talking about global issues and environmental issues that concern all of us, Shani’s art has a much more private and personal aspect to it. Three years ago she was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and her condition has affected most parts of her life, including painting. The condition has been quite intrusive and arresting. It fills the mind with worry and self-doubt and can set decapitating limitations to one’s creativity. But she has turned the weakness into a strength and the obstacle has become the subject matter itself.
Sharni started to paint anxiety and how it looked like to her. “So I use this weakness to understand the power my mind can produce. If my head can inject that much resistance, surely my head can also inject a strong will to forge. I now fight with my thoughts and put the battle to rest in a state of flow. I’ve learnt that colour can help to re-balance and/or stimulate energies within our bodies. I use colours to emit a feeling or to convey thoughts, dreams and aspirations.”
Whether it is the tropical birds themselves, our natural environment and its challenges or the personal journey of the artist that entices you, you cannot overlook the powerful aesthetic qualities of these paintings and the fact that it is simply a pleasure to rest your eye in front them.