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China's mermaid

By Xu Jingxi  (China Daily)

10:41, October 30, 2012

Yu Lan-ying shows off her contemporary ink paintings, themed on the underwater world at her solo exhibition in Guangzhou.(China Daily/Zou Zhongpiny)

Ardent diver and painter Yu Lan-ying has made it her life mission to spread the message of marine conservation through her paintings.

Yu Lan-ying feels at home underwater. She's at ease with the corals and the fish, as they are with her.

"I may have been a fish in my previous life," says Yu, whose infatuation with diving is into its 27th year and counting.

"My mind is at peace when I'm diving. And the unpredictable and changing deep sea makes me realize the transience of life."

Yu says the water constantly changes the color of its dress from blue to green, responding to the changing sunlight. And fish love playing hide and seek.

"When you're under the sea, you may come across a creature in a strange shape that you have never seen, but it may whiz past you and disappear behind the corals within a second," says the 68-year-old, who practices yoga and swims every day to stay fit.

Fortunately, as a skillful painter, Yu is able to capture these fleeting moments with her brushes and share the beauty of the mysterious underwater world with people who do not have the opportunity to dive.

More importantly, she hopes to arouse the general public's awareness of protecting the ocean with beautiful art.

Yu's 27 contemporary ink paintings, themed on the submarine world and which she completed in the past four years, have been on a tour across Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai since Sept 22 and will end in January.

Yu has been drawing the underwater world since her first dive in 1985, but the idea of making a series for an exhibition didn't come to her until recently.

"I have witnessed the changes in the ocean because of pollution caused by humans. When I revisit a diving spot, I often find less colorful corals from my last dive because many have been destroyed by polluted water and become sadly gray," says Yu, who is upset that such changes are taking place in almost every country she has dived in, including the US, China, Thailand and Malaysia.

"The situation has become more severe in the past five years and I feel the urgency of showing people what I have seen under the sea," Yu adds.

"People can directly feel the pollution above water by, say, seeing the foggy sky, but it's difficult for them to see what's going on beneath the sea if they don't dive."

But Yu doesn't present dreadful sights such as dead fish in greasy dirt in her paintings. She fascinates the audience with the beauty of the underwater world so that they will fall in love with the ocean and naturally want to protect it.

"It's more effective to arouse people's desire of treasuring the ocean with its beauty than faulting them," says Yu.

"I hope that by looking at my paintings, people will realize that if they don't protect nature's beauty, it will be lost forever."

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