My continual inspiration has always been the desire to change the world, my continual disappointment is that I have not changed it enough - Ralph Steadman
It can sometimes be a nice surprise to discover who hides a 'Green Voice'. Artist and illustrator Ralph Steadman is best known for his anarchic humour but a recent commission to paint an extinct bird awakened an interest for him.
Once he had completed it, he found he couldn't stop. One hundred paintings later his book, Extinct Boids was born. The collection is a riot of classic Steadman colour and humour, focussing on species that no longer inhabit our skies and others that only ever took flight in Steadman's imagination. Birds such as the Needless Smut or Gob Swallow flap through the pages - as well as the famous (and real) Dodos and Great Auks.
A follow-up book 'Nextinction' concentrated on avians that there is still time to save: the 192 Critically Endangered ones on the IUCN Red List, including the Giant Ibis or Sumatran Ground-cuckoo. But, of course, Steadman couldn't resist sprinkling the pages with a few extras from his rich fantasy world.
The British artist is probably best-known for his collaboration with journalist Hunter S Thompson whose drink-and drug-addled view of society challenged America's literary circles in the Seventies. Generally, Thompson has been seen as the hard-core manic but Jann Warner, proprietor of Rolling Stone which published the duo's work, always believed Steadman to be the crazier of the two.
That might go some way to explain how the Brit can conjure up his parallel universe of subversive, spattered creations. His left-field perspective has also provided the ammunition for his main target: politics. Members of parliament must wince at how Steadman's visceral, distorted creatures mock the Establishment.
Steadman says that while he's has 'a contempt for politicians generally', he has no strong political affiliations. At his core, the artist has always been a humanitarian and unable to understand how we can inflict such terrible acts on each other. He employs his spiky wit to demonstrate how our treatment of our fellow humans can make a difference. He says: "My continual inspiration has always been the desire to change the world, my continual disappointment is that I have not changed it enough."
Given his humanitarian and wildlife work, it is perfectly logical that he should be among 50 artists contributing to the Green Party's 'Green Creates' exhibition, which runs from 19 to 24 October at Hoxton Arches, London. Other internationally renowned creatives taking part include Grayson Perry, Gavin Turk, Andy Goldsworthy, Lesley Hilling and Craig Jones. Their donated pieces on the theme of 'Green Voices' will be auctioned to raise funds for the party.
Lesley Hilling's fascinating salvaged wood sculptures are grid-like yet organic constructions that draw the viewer into what seems like a scaled-down world. She says: "I usually start with a selection of wood. I like to use the hues of the wood as if I'm a painter. Often the piece will have a gradient from dark to light."
She will be exhibiting Sphere 11, the eleventh is a series of balls of various dimensions, made from items that people have discarded. Hilling adds: "I hope that people will see that art can be made from anything, that lots of things thrown away can be put to a good use. Often things made from recycled materials are more interesting and beautiful and can trigger ideas."
Another Green Voice contributor, wildlife photographer Craig Jones captures the beauty of the natural world through his intense emotional attachment to his subject. "My love of wildlife started from a young age, learning to respect and care for wildlife was instilled in me by my late mother." He adds: "I learnt very early on that once I came across a wild animal it was down to me how long that encounter would last.'
Jones will be talking about his work in Sumatra, which highlights the impact the palm oil industry on the island's fauna, during the show. A captivating signed, limited edition photo of an Orangutan called Eye Contact will form part of the exhibition.
The cross section of artists donating to the exhibition should ensure 'Green Voices' shout loud and clear about the direction the world needs to take.
Gary Cook is a Conservation Artist and the Ecologist Arts Editor.
He has also been invited to show his work as part of the Green Party's 'Green Creates' exhibition this month