Magazine article Sculpture

Submerged

Magazine article Sculpture

Submerged

Article excerpt

Disillusioned with the rat race, sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor chose to dive into an altogether different pursuit. His poetic underwater installations comment on environmental issues, climate change, and rising sea levels while providing new habitat for sea life and foundations for underwater growth. To support his efforts, deCaires Taylor follows a business model more akin to tourism development than gallery sales. Spreading the word about these underwater sculptures plays an important role in their remit, and photos of his projects have appeared across a wide range of international media outlets.

In recent years, deCaires Taylor has installed underwater figural sculptures along the coasts of Grenada, the Bahamas, Cancún, Mexico, and in Coloradas Bay, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain. In 2015, he produced a different kind of work on the banks of the River Thames, in view of the Houses of Parliament. The Rising Tide (2015) was intended as a political statement, referencing the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Placed within the river's substantial seven-meter tidal flow, the figures appear in full at low tide, then disappear as the water rises.

Robert Preece: Your work has gained widespread coverage across general media outlets. As we know, the art world can be very old school and conservative about such popularizing approaches. What do you now think about this international coverage? What has it done for you -and what hasn't it done?

Jason deCaires Taylor: The coverage has been very intense. It sometimes makes me feel like an observer or commentator looking in. It's interesting - I place something in an inaccessible place, and it becomes more accessible than ever before. I just saw a report that, over the last five years, I have connected to an audience of over a billion people, certainly a sign of the times and testament to how digital media is rapidly changing the world and can help shape artists' careers. It also has changed my practice significantly, because I spend as much time on the documentation of my work as on the construction. I find myself making details on works that will be lost to the sea within days, but will be ever present in my images. The media attention has, without doubt, helped me to attain many new commissions, and it has really helped me to connect with a wide-ranging audience, which is vital when forming a debate around global environmental issues.

Although I studied sculpture for my degree, I still view myself as an outsider artist, someone who has not necessarily passed through the traditional gallery system. As a result, I probably focus more of my energy on the actual site-specific installations and pay less attention to the art market and exhibitions.

RP: When did you first think about placing sculpture underwater?

JdCT: I have been exploring the ocean since I was eight years old. Even at an early age, I was fascinated by its endless possibilities, presenting both a physical space to explore and a mental place of escape. I have been interested in developing art projects using the underwater world ever since I was at Camberwell College of Arts in the early 1990s. At the time, I was very much influenced by the Land Art and earthworks movements and felt the ocean represented a vast arena to further explore the boundaries of art.

At art college, I focused on creating landscape installations in both urban environments and coastal settings. Studying in central London, however, made the possibility of realizing an underwater project impractical, so I put it on the back burner. I was also troubled by the resources and materials that large-scale installations consumed. It was only when I realized the conservational element of my work that I became more comfortable with it.

RP: How does your process work? What things do you have to consider as you progress from idea, to making, to installation of the works?

JdCT: I often begin my installations by lifecasting models, mainly local residents whom I invite to the studio and then fullbody cast. …

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