The really extraordinary thing about Jason de Caires Taylor’s underwater sculpture groups is that they look so natural, so at home in the filtered green light of the sea. Figures, faces, appear out of the murk like classical statues marking the spot of an ancient shipwreck.
Jason’s underwater career began as an attempt to create new foundations for corals to colonise in the aftermath of a tropical hurricane that had damaged reefs in the Caribbean.
The series of videos below is highly recommended, as a way of seeing and experiencing the sculptures. The nearest thing to actually swimming among them.
Unstill Life is a three-dimensional representation of a classic painters’ subject. Four-dimensional, I should have said, for time allows the sea to work on the piece, coating it with algae, fringing carved eyes with tubeworms and starfish. Sea fans have set up shop in the bowl of fruit, which is now guarded by a fish that has made its home there.
In another video, a face ravaged by the sea, yet retaining its beauty and grace, grimaces almost in fear, as a silver barracuda hangs in the water nearby.
The camera lingers on a row of African faces deep underwater, turned up to the light, making one wonder if Jason Taylor intended this piece as a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of Africans who lost their lives in the ocean after being taken in chains from Africa.
But it was the grandeur of the drowned throngs in Silent Evolution that awed me. These works are no gimmick, they are moving and powerful and absolutely right for their environment.
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