News Animals Artist's Hybrid Flora and Fauna Paintings Evoke 'Unseen Magic' of Nature Nature's beauty and resilience are highlighted in these vividly imaginative artworks. By Kimberley Mok Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who covered architecture and the arts for Treehugger starting in 2007. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Kimberley Mok Published June 28, 2021 12:00PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checker Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a writer, fact checker, and conservationist with a certification in sustainability. Our Fact-Checking Process Article fact-checked on Jun 28, 2021 Haley Mast Jon Ching Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices At the heart of our current woes with the unfolding climate catastrophe is our fraught relationship with nature. The centuries-old worldview of domination, exploitation, and unfettered resource extraction is jeopardizing the planet and all life, and the human species is coming to a crossroads where it must redefine that unbalanced relationship with nature, and its place within it. Art is one tool to help us forge a new collective vision, and artists like Los Angeles-based Jon Ching are one of many who are leveraging the power of images to transform our perspectives about nature. Filled with vibrant images of flora and wildlife merging together to create new imaginary figures, Ching's work invites us to recognize the "unseen magic" of nature. Jon Ching Growing up in Kaneohe, Hawaii, Ching absorbed the incredible natural beauty of the islands and the indigenous Hawaiian culture of a respectful relationship with the land. Though Ching is formally trained as a mechanical engineer, his creative side has always been stimulated by his mother, who would often do arts and crafts projects with him as a child, like origami, crochet, and Chinese calligraphy—all of which helped him to develop a lifelong love for creating things. Jon Ching Largely self-taught as an artist, Ching is now creating new mixtures of lifeforms that have never been seen before: creatures that sprout mycelium, foliage, honeycombs, or even crystalline structures out of their bodies. Ching explains that: "One major concept I’m always trying to express in my work is the interconnectedness of everything. I think that seeing similarities in shapes and patterns across the natural world is a way to explore our connectedness, and once I started looking at things that way, I started to see it everywhere. It doesn’t always come easy, even with my tendencies, and I do a lot of work and observation to find things that mimic or reflect each other to make my ‘flauna’ creatures. It’s a fun exercise of creativity and treasure hunting." Jon Ching Ching's work is characterized by lush colors, often imbuing the subjects with a living light that ranges from golden, prismatic, or even dusky—harmonizing everything from color to form. Jon Ching To develop ideas for his striking oil paintings, Ching will observe plants and wildlife around him, or from wildlife documentaries or photographs, going through a process of using sketches and reference images, to finally rendering it with oil paints. He also tells us that he writes what he calls "braindumps" to help him dig deeper into nascent ideas: The start of a painting differs from piece to piece, but usually the main creature is developed first. Sometimes I'll see a plant or animal that will spark an idea or connects to an existing idea. In that case I can work off of that initial impulse, and see if a painting develops from it. Other times, there's an idea or concept that I want to talk or write about, and my intuition and muses guide me to developing the creature. Jon Ching To highlight the plight of various species threatened with extinction, many of Ching's paintings focus on animals like the Amur leopard of Far East Asia, which is critically endangered (only 84 now remain). Jon Ching Through his vivid and imaginative paintings, Ching is continually trying to convey a message about the resilience of nature. Jon Ching His ongoing practice delves further into the possibilities of decolonizing our relationship with nature while grounding in the wisdom of traditional cultures: My art practice, for the most part, is a continual response to the climate crisis and humans' impact on the planet. I have a few ongoing series that respond to this including one where I imagine the natural world post-Anthropocene, where the limited lifeforms spared from our destructive behaviors are left to evolve and adapt to a new world. This is to comment on our destruction -- yet also highlight nature's resilience. Another series I have is creating gods out of nature. Past civilizations and present cultures see god in nature, and I think if we can revitalize that worldview, we'd have no choice but to protect and nourish the planet. My hope is that my art can show the wonders of nature, even through my surreal, supernatural painting, and that a sense of awe leads to compassion and protection. Jon Ching On August 14, Ching will be unveiling 10 new large works in an upcoming solo exhibition at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. To see more, or browse his artist's shop, visit his website, and Instagram.