Street artist ATM is raising awareness of birds threatened with extinction with his spectacular murals of our winged friends on concrete walls in cities across London, Bristol and Madrid to name but a few.
Around 1,439 bird species are now in serious decline across the world, including 67 species in Britain.
For the London-based ATM, the contrast between nature and the urban environment is something that is at the core of his work. His huge, lifelike impressions of endangered species are inspiring and seek to address the issue, especially in urban environments, where ATM is attempting to return the spirit, energy and essence of these birds, and contribute to the saving of these birds’ lifeforce through awareness raising.
ATM uses his art to engage people to take part in local regeneration efforts and believes that small changes repeated on a large scale can have dramatic effects.
The artist, who grew up in a mill town in northern England, has had a strong connection to nature from an early age.
In an interview with Human Nature, he said: “As a child I used to wander not far from town in steep-sided valleys that were thickly wooded and lined with streams and ponds. Insects, amphibians and above all birds were abundant.
“Birds have always meant a lot to me. I have loved their songs since I was very young. They are also incredibly beautiful. It’s their balance and co‑ordination, their markings. I also love birds because I love the wild places where they live, and I associate the two with each other.”
Also a strong resonance for ATM was his passion for art. Having gone to art college in Sheffield, he says his love of birds was “ridiculed” by his fellow students. Following art college, ATM began to explore ancient Greek and Roman mythology and channelled this inspiration in his paintings of birds.
“Myths shed light on the darker forces in human nature,” he said. “In myths the unwitting acts of human beings are severely punished by the gods. This speaks to the way we live. The wiser counsel is often ignored; we pretend the environmental side effects are not really happening. We see progress on one level, but at a hidden level the opposite is going on. The warning signs are there for those who care to notice in the loss of the profusion of wildlife I knew as a child.”
Anyone who has visited Camley Street Natural Park in the heart of central London’s Kings Cross may be familiar with ATM’s paintings of a Daubenton’s bat. Also known as the ‘water bat’, they are often spotted at the nature reserve on warm nights. They fly low over the pond’s surface and grab insects using their large feet or tail.
Visitors to this urban oasis, while being able to appreciate nature in the heart of the city, also get to relish in the artwork of ATM, which is as much an educational tool and awareness raising campaign as it is splendid artwork.
The small green space on the site of a former coal yard, Camley Street Natural Park features pond, meadow and woodland habitats to explore. Wildlife that can be appreciated at the urban nature retreat include kingfishers, geese, mallards and bats.
ATM says: “Birds are often the most noticeable creatures to disappear, their loss the warning sign that something is fundamentally wrong in the way we treat our environment. They are the canary in the mine. We must learn a greater love and respect for other living things if we are to avert global disaster.”
Street art or graffiti is often portrayed negatively by local councils, who argue they must spend resources on removing “unsightly”graffiti from walls. However, street artists like ATM are finding a way to collaborate with councils that serve a greater good.
He says: “My hope is that together we really can bring about fundamental change in modern farming practices, city planning and local council approaches to public land. It’s a matter of culture. We need to see untidiness and unruliness as a virtue that makes life possible for myriad creatures, instead of something that must be curtailed.
“I want to see towns and cities rich in wildflowers, a countryside with dense hedges, ponds, vast reed beds, new forests, woodland and little copses.”
In fact ATM’s first piece of street art was a painting of a snipe, abundant in the north and south-west of the British isles. In the south-east of England, however, their numbers are in decline.
ATM’s painting was part of a project by Acton Community Forum to bring art to the bleak South Acton Estate. For ATM, it was also an opportunity to return the spirit of the snipe to a part of suburban west London that was once marshland.
ATM said: “I painted this snipe on Bollo Bridge road in Acton, West London, where the river Bollo once flowed, but is now underground, concealed by concrete and tarmac. This is symbolic of what we are doing.”
Earlier this month, ATM created a mural of a giant hedgehog, painted on the wall of the garden of a pub in Ipswich. The mural, which was created during Hedgehog Awareness Week – a national campaign run by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, is part of Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s campaign to make the town more hedgehog-friendly.
Images: © ATM
Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com