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December 9, 2009

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Artist of the undersea world

BRILLIANT Hawaiian sunsets, lush tropical forests and magical marine life in the oceans below are united in the vivid works of Robert Lyn Nelson, a world-renowned marine life artist and environmentalist.

Nelson, the American "ocean artist," is in town to prepare his one-man show in the United States Pavilion for the upcoming World Expo 2010 Shanghai. The theme is "Better City, Better Life" and preservation of the natural environment is a powerful current.

Nelson was a pioneer in the modern marine art movement and creator of the spectacular and startling "Two Worlds" (1979) painting of the Earth and sea as a harmonious whole. He melds his lavish landscapes with extravagant under-seascapes in vibrant colors. Many have a fantastical, fairyland feeling.

Nelson, who lives in Maui, Hawaii, has been a surfer and scuba diver, and he paints what he has seen and experienced.

"I want to paint the precise sensation of being in two universes at once," Nelson has said.

He is in the forefront of efforts to raise awareness of the importance of preserving the marine environment around the world.

"I am happy to have my exhibition in Shanghai. I hope my two-world theme will echo with China's efforts in environmental protection and clean energy," says the artist.

In his canvases, pure clean skies meet azure seas where dolphins leap in the air and turtles swim leisurely about.

"These are not works of imagination," says Nelson. "All these are real. This is exactly what I find when I dive under the sea."

Born in 1955 in Southern California, Nelson began drawing with charcoal and pencil when he was only three and soon began to paint astonishing works.

"Since I grew in Southern California, I learned to surf at an early age on the beaches of Laguna and San Clemente," he says.

A turning point came at 18 years old when he moved to Hawaii where he began painting vivid Hawaiian landscapes and seascapes and spent a lot of time surfing, kayaking and scuba diving in Maui.

"It was fantastic to paint the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands," he recalls. "It was while diving in the tropical waters that I was inspired by the sense of being in two worlds at one time."

He carried on the two-world concept.

"Some say the colors I use are too brilliant and shining, but have you ever been to Hawaii? Those are the real colors there," Nelson says.

His "From Sea to Shining Sea" was chosen as the official painting for the USA Pavilion at the 1998 World Expo in Lisbon, Portugal. The theme was "The Oceans: Heritage for the Future."

The painting was shown in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History for a 2002 exhibition in support of the National Marine Sanctuary System.

Nelson also paints other subjects and says he was influenced by Rembrandt, Monet, Dali, Picasso and Braque - and by Americans Maxfield Parrish and Andrew Wyeth.

"Cubism is evident in some works, but my love for the ocean never fades and sometimes an ocean appears in my paintings, outside a window," he says.

Nelson's works have widely been collected by US presidents including Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton and the Bush family, as well as Hollywood celebrities such as Clint Eastwood and James Cameron.

Collectors appreciate the message of peace, hope, harmony and a bright future that radiates from his works.

Nelson recently visited the "artists' village" of Jinshan in Guangdong Province and says he was very impressed. "I hope to find a way to promote the concept of environmental protection and clean energy with Chinese artists," he says.

"I am a fortunate person," says Nelson. "Once you start to realize and appreciate every breath of nature, then you are not far from paradise."


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