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‘One Planet One Chance’: Ronnie Wood’s daughter combats climate change through art

Leah Wood. The image has been cropped and compressed.

Staff writer reviews the ‘One Planet One Chance’, Leah Wood and Zebra One Gallery’s upcoming art exhibition on the devastating impact of climate change.

Leah Wood, daughter of The Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, is an artist through and through. A former model and musician turned professional painter, Leah is also an ambassador for Cool Earth, a UK-based international NGO that fights climate change. Her latest endeavour has seen her feature in and jointly curate an exhibition with Zebra One Gallery, entitled “One Planet One Chance.” The exhibition, which opens free to the public this Friday, 3 June, raises awareness for the harrowing effects of climate change on our earth’s ecosystem, a theme which underpins Leah’s artwork.

Through the prism of her paintings, Leah has enriched her long-standing passion for nature: “I have always loved nature. But it wasn’t until my A-Levels that I really understood that I could paint, when I stepped back and appreciated the flowers that I had painted in a vase. It was then that I truly appreciated how to look at my subject and transfer that to my artworks. After that moment, I was hooked.” Leah’s father, an amateur painter, and her uncle, Paul Karslake, an award-winning airbrush artist, have helped to inform and nurture Leah’s talent. She would “get to see a lot of different artists when [my uncle] had an exhibition…whereas, with my dad, our favourite thing to do together has always been to visit art galleries and look at ‘The Greats’ together, and how they applied their paints.” Despite her pre-eminent family members, Leah never assumed her artistic career was an inevitability: “I always painted as a passionate hobby. Then later in life, I was lucky enough for the career to come to me, organically.”

Leah Wood with a selection of her artwork. The image has been cropped and compressed.

Unfazed by her ancestral wall of fame, Leah has carved her own unique artistic style. Her paintings distinctly comprise of acrylic paint, glue, chalks, and clingfilm. She listens to music whilst painting, naturally, and describes her method as “a process of construction, deconstruction and finally reconstruction, visible through the textural layers, and resulting in something quite sculptural on a 2D surface” on her website. The product of her unorthodox approach is hauntingly beautiful. From afar, Leah’s colourful artworks bask in the glory of the Koppel Project exhibition space. Up close, however, her animal subjects – a bee, a butterfly and a polar bear – stoically smother beneath layer upon layer of plastic. The translucent quality of her work portrays a disturbing reality: humankind, by its climate inaction, is softly suffocating the planet’s animal species. Leah thinks it, “tragic that it is us as humans who are doing this, when we have the power to look after the planet and everything that lives in it. It makes me incredibly sad to see the oceans in danger and the amounts of plastics that are dumped into our oceans; the corals dying, the fish and turtles getting caught up in plastic waste and fishing nets.”

When asked whether she considers herself an artist or an activist, Leah admits that she considers herself an artist first and foremost: “The activism came later. It is a huge source of inspiration for my art though, because I’m passionate about our planet, and that is reflected very clearly in my pieces,” she says. She humbly expresses a dutifulness to use her artistic talent to play her part in the fight against climate change: “I feel blessed to have this [talent] and to be able to use it to express these messages, raise awareness and raise funds to help the planet at such a critical time. I would only hope that I can sustain this until I am an old lady.”

Leah, who counts Sir David Attenborough amongst her inspirations, admires the artists who feature in this exhibition because “they are all passionate about fighting climate change and many are also activists, environmentalists and ambassadors for charities like Sea Shepherd.” She mentions that, “there are some really powerful and unforgettable pieces by artists like Chris Fallows, who is showing Lightbox photographic encounters with iconic animals in extraordinary moments,” and Konrad Bartelski, a “real-life James Bond turned photographer” who shares “incredible images from the Norwegian Arctic to Antarctica, many places which can’t be seen in real life now due to the huge loss of glacial ice.”

Although Leah finds nature’s unabated plight against climate change, “heart-breaking,” she has hope for the future of our planet: “We’ve made a start, and that’s always a good place to begin.”

‘One Planet One Chance’ is curated by Zebra One Gallery and Leah Wood and will be open for free to the public this Friday, 3 June at Koppel Project, New Bond Street.

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