Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 17:19 UK
Fresco celebrates life of Darwin

By Sam Thorne
BBC Shropshire

Artist Maja Subic

Stretched across an otherwise blank wall, a giant globe, painted in serene blues and vivid reds, now dominates the biology lab at Shrewsbury School.

With colourful images of turtles, dolphins and a gigantic fossil, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stepped into another world.

But the two-metre-square painting is actually the work of Slovenian artist and illustrator Maja Subic, 44.

Maja was asked to do the painting to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin - one of the school's former pupils.

The globe itself shows Darwin's famous voyage around the world, where he spent five years observing different animals and countries to help him to form the theory of natural selection in 1838.

Maja said she had been fascinated by Darwin since the age of 10, when she was given a copy of his diaries from the voyage.

Artist Maja Subic with Shrewsbury School's Andrew Allott
Artist Maja Subic with Shrewsbury School's Andrew Allott

"He was so curious and he just started by admiring nature, but he achieved all this through hard work and fascination," she said.

Andrew Allott, Shrewsbury School's head of Biology, said he asked Maja to do the painting after he was impressed by some of her work, which was on display at a Darwin exhibition in Shrewsbury in 2006.

"Three or four years ago, when we knew the Darwin anniversaries were coming up, we knew they were going to be hugely important and I kept looking at a wall in the Biology lab which was completely blank.

"Maja had been asked to exhibit in the Darwin festival, and I went down and saw her work and I thought the quality of painting was just gorgeous," Allott said.

Maja is creating the image as a fresco, which involves painting directly onto freshly applied plaster.

"It's done like how the old masters, like Michael Angelo, would have done it," she said.

"It is hard because you have to paint the picture onto fresh wall, so you have to finish every single detail and you can't repair or correct anything. You are always tense.

"I'm not alone here, my plasterer is with me and my assistant, which is a big support, but yesterday I was here until one in the morning."

Maja admits there is still a lot of work to be done.

"My favourite animal still isn't on the fresco yet, but I like all the animals though.

"I've also still got to paint the sea, and then I'll do the lighthouse, and of course the background."

The piece should be finished on Saturday 8 August and members of the public will be able to view the painting when the school is open.




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