Creating for conservation
Andrew J Steele is an artist and ‘laid back’ conservation hero. Together with prominent New Zealand artists Otis Frizzell, Flox, Anna Leyland and Askew One, he was recently commissioned by Orcon to banish the boring modem and turn it into a piece of art. Each artist pledged to auction their original artwork – and have already raised more than $5,000 for Forest & Bird.
Andrew’s piece, ‘Laid Back’, will be going under the hammer next week, so we caught up with him to find out more about the legendary street artist and what conservation means to him.
Tell us about the piece you will be auctioning…
I thought to myself – “what do I do when I’m on the internet?”- I kick back, like the character in the artwork. I wanted to create a piece that was fun and playful, but still refined and considered. While I was designing this piece I was thinking about the modem itself and imagining the context of where it would live. I played with the space on the modem, creating a character that’s relaxed and easy to look at.
Do you ever get sick of the city and if so, where do you go in NZ to recharge your batteries? What do you personally get from spending time in the great outdoors?
I love the outdoors. I grew up camping, tramping, boating and exploring our country. I then went on to study environmental science to better appreciate the complexity of the natural world and our country. Down time for me is spent sailing and getting into the woods – this is crucial for me to rest and recharge.
Some of your street art makes a comment on the state of the environment – what are the environmental issues that worry you the most and why?
Communicating environmental issues is incredibly important. I try to disguise messages as art, simplifying the idea and communicating to a wider audience through public art. I’m most concerned about species extinction, plastics and our waterways, so all the proceeds from my Orcon Designer Series auction going to Forest & Bird is a natural fit for me.
What do you want Forest & Bird to achieve for New Zealand’s environment?
Environmental issues are always complex and have many layers; government, policy, public education, cultural values and of course, the science and data behind it all. I want to live in a country that has clean water to swim in, clean bushes with thriving wildlife. Being a global leader in environmental protection is incredibly important and I think Forest & Bird is making a solid contribution towards these things.
How do you hope people will respond to your pieces?
I want people to have fun and enjoy their lives – pure and simple. My role as an artist is to engage and inspire people, so I seek to do that with everything I create. Sometimes I try to stimulate thought and provoke action around a certain issue or cause, but at the simplest level I want people to enjoy the graphic merits of my work and some visual escapism.