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It's no fluke that artist tunes into whale song ; Laura Joint discovers whales and dolphins singing for their survival in stunning art [Western Morning News (England)]
[January 04, 2014]

It's no fluke that artist tunes into whale song ; Laura Joint discovers whales and dolphins singing for their survival in stunning art [Western Morning News (England)]

(Western Morning News (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) How do you fancy having the sound of whale and dolphin song on your wall? Or on your surfboard even? These amazing images are, with a bit of digital tweaking, what whale and dolphin songs "look" like.

The Whalesong Art pieces are being marketed around the world by former Plymouth Albion player Paul "Max" Lomax from his SunFun International base at St Merryn near Padstow, with 10% of the profits going to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

Max became involved when he heard about the work of San Francisco- based artist Mark Fischer. Mark creates the Whalesong Art pieces from hydrophonic recordings of whale and dolphin song frequencies, which he turns into digital mandalas using his "Wavelets" process. Max explained: "I saw a photo of a bright red mandala, which is a circular form of artwork, and it was the frequencies of a humpback whale song recorded off Hawaii. Mark had recorded this whale song and turned it into a lateral image and then made it into around piece. I thought it looked stunning, with the tiniest micro frequency clearly detailed." Max contacted Mark and suggested a business venture that would also raise money and awareness for whale and dolphin conservation: "I've always been aware of whale and dolphin causes so I said to him: 'What do you do with this stuff ? I think it's great' and he said 'well, nothing'.

"He's one of the world's top sonic engineers and he's appeared in scientific magazines in the States, just from the scientific viewpoint. He's also consultant to the US Navy for their sonic tests. We had common ground because he's a windsurfer and I'm a surfer. I asked him if I could run it commercially as artwork, and he agreed and that's how it started." Max has the global rights to sell the artwork, with the exception of the US. The images are on canvas, prints, Tshirts, surfboards and gift cards and there are plans to expand the range. One idea is to have gift cards which play the sound of the dolphin or whale depicted on the card and Max is looking for wallpaper and fabric manufacturers to get involved.

The Whalesong Art brand now accounts for about half of Max's business, which distributes to the surf industry. The surfboards, which have the image chosen by the customer put on before the top coating of resin, have gone down particularly well.

"There's something very natural about riding on a board with artwork that's been provided by a dolphin - it's like taking that shape of the song back into the water," he says.

"The whole concept is just really amazing. You're looking at a piece of art which has got lovely shapes and is very pretty and colourful and fits in with your interior decor and then you find out it was actually created by a killer whale off Vancouver Island. You're like 'wow, that's cool!' - it's the icing on the cake." Prints start from Pounds 19 and canvas pieces are from Pounds 49.

But behind all the bright, colourful images is a serious message - that the world's cetacean population is under threat. One of the publicity shots shows a dolphin sound mandala beside a toilet: "The message here is 'don't flush dolphins down the loo' and it's targeting the tradition in The Cove, Taiji, Japan, where they drive pods of pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins and just slaughter them. They see it as traditional and they're feeding this meat - which, as dolphins are high up the food chain, is highly contaminated with mercury - to schools. It's barbaric.It's not what a cultured society should be doing.

"There's a big show in Brighton called WhaleFest, which brings in people from all over the world including conservationists and celebrities. When we showed there, people said 'wow, this is like a breath of fresh air'. We had a surfboard on the stand with multiple images of the artwork on, and the T-shirts have 'humpback whale' in small writing underneath the image - and that sparks conversations. "We've taken our message to social media and so far we've brought around 2,000 new people to whale and dolphin causes." It is a million miles away from the days when Max played full- back for Plymouth Albion in the late 1980s.

"I think I played in every position in the backs until I secured the Number 15 position," he says. "I had 25 great years in Plymouth until I moved to Cornwall about 10 years ago." These days his sights are set on marine conservation rather than the try-line. "The potential for Whalesong Art is just huge, especially in places like South Africa and Australia and all of these places where people can actually see whales and dolphins swimming past all the time. Unfortunately, we haven't got as many around our coast but we're hoping we can change that with more fish reservations in place.

"The whale and dolphin watching industry is worth billions of pounds globally, but these big cetacean aren't going to come in if there isn't the food for them inshore. We've just got to keep getting the message out there in the way we have been doing, by creating awareness of cetacean causes through conversation about the art; you can make a real impact without banging any drums." There's something very natural about riding on a board with artwork that's been provided by a dolphin (c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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