For 2017 Art Basel Miami, the Basel House Mural Festival took on an ambitious project in the Wynwood Art District. Inviting 80+ street-artists from around the world, they transformed the legendary walls of the iconic RC Cola Plant into an outdoor gallery. Among the vast array of talent was the South-African based British artist Sonny, who painted a remarkable and realistic mural, “Nanuk” as part of his To The Bone series.
In the past year Sonny’s traveled the globe for his latest wildlife protection campaign “To The Bone” which aims to raise funds and awareness for endangered wildlife. His latest mural “Nanuk”, an inuit name that means ‘animal worthy of respect’ honors polar bears; powerful predators currently facing extinction from man-made global warming.
Often illustrating animals in their natural habitat with their faces slightly removed to reveal the raw skeletons underneath, it symbolizes just how quickly these creatures are fading away. He also depicts them with native patterns from their home country to convey how important they are to the culture, heritage and people of that place. Here, he’s added layers of sea ice, which is essentially their platform of life. Another interesting aspect of this mural is that the endangered polar bear remains under the beating sun in Miami. As marine mammals that dwell on the Arctic sea ice, it’s a clever way to use placement and imagery to emphasize the future of this species.
Sonny is a self-taught street-artist that grew up in Manchester, England and moved to Johannesburg, South-Africa when he was eleven and currently based. As a child, he enjoyed to draw and was intrigued by graffiti, however he focused his creative efforts towards music. He also developed a love and fascination for wildlife, being surrounded by African animals.
It wouldn’t be until years later, around his mid-twenties that he began to explore different artistic mediums. He studied different color theories, spray techniques and even taught himself how to use photoshop.
After painting a few indoor murals, in 2014 he tackled his first large-scale outdoor wall and knew then he wanted to become a full-time artist. Blending photo-realism and abstract styles with his increasing concern for the future of wildlife, it became the subject of his work.
Now, as a passionate wildlife advocate, he believes that the wellbeing of animals is intricately tied to humanity, and our ability to thrive. It’s inspired the world-wide project To The Bone which he launched this year. The initiative aims to shed awareness on the extinction crisis currently facing society, and it’s brought him to cities, large and small all across the globe in Russia, Ireland, UK and USA to paint large-scale murals that highlights this critical issue.