Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater sculptures create a unique, absorbing and expansive visual seascape. Highlighting natural ecological processes, Taylor’s interventions explore the intricate relationships that exist between art and environment. His works become artificial reefs, attracting marine life, while offering the viewer privileged temporal encounters, as the shifting sand of the ocean floor, and the works change from moment to moment.
Below you will find a small collection of his work. For more pictures and extensive details on each project, the Sifter highly recommends Jason deCaires official site. Enjoy!
JASON DECAIRES TAYLOR: ARTIST BIO
Jason deCaires Taylor is a man of many identities, whose work resonates with the influences of his eclectic life. Growing up in Europe and Asia with his English father and Guyanese mother nurtured his passion for exploration and discovery. Much of his childhood was spent on the coral reefs of Malaysia where he developed a profound love of the sea and a fascination with the natural world.
This would later lead him to spend several years working as a scuba diving instructor in various parts of the globe, developing a strong interest in conservation, underwater naturalism and photography. His bond with the sea remains a constant throughout Taylor’s life though other key influences are found far from the oceans. During his teenage years, work as a graffiti artist fired his interest in the relationship between art and the environment, fostering an ambition to produce art in public spaces and directing the focus of his formal art training.
He graduated in 1998 from the London Institute of Arts, with a B.A. Honours in Sculpture and Ceramics. Later, experience in Canterbury Cathedral taught him traditional stone carving techniques whilst five years working in set design and concert installations exposed him to cranes, lifting, logistics and completing projects on a grand scale.
With this range of experiences he was equipping himself with the skills required to execute the ambitious underwater projects that have made his name. Carving cement instead of stone and supervising cranes while in full scuba gear to create artificial reefs submerged below the surface of the Caribbean Sea, the various strands of his diverse life resolve themselves convincingly in the development of his underwater sculptures. These ambitious, public works have a practical, functional aspect, facilitating positive interactions between people and fragile underwater habitats.
Jason deCaires Taylor has gained significant interest and recognition for his unique work, with features in over 1000 publications around the world, including National Geographic, Vogue, USA today, the BBC, and CNN and he has made several TV appearances.
His international reputation was established in May 2006, when he created the world’s first underwater sculpture park in Grenada, West Indies, leading to both private and public commissions. Taylor is currently founder and Artistic Director of the Museo Subacuático del Arte (MUSA) in Cancun, Mexico.
JASON DECAIRES TAYLOR’S ‘VICISSITUDES’
Vicissitudes depicts a circle of figures, all linked through holding hands. These are life-size casts taken from a group of children of diverse ethnic background. Circular in structure and located five meters below the surface, the work both withstands strong currents and replicates one of the primary geometric shapes, evoking ideas of unity and continuum.
The underwater environment is much like that of the outdoors. An object is subject to changes in light and prevailing weather conditions. The cement finish and chemical composition of Vicissitudes actively promotes the colonisation of coral and marine life. The figures are transformed over time by their environment, and conversely as this happens so they change the shape of their habitat. This natural process echoes the changes exacted through growing up. Social interchange shapes this process, while conversely as the product of a particular society we in turn invoke change on the workings and dynamics of that environment.
The sculpture proposes growth, chance, and natural transformation. It shows how time and environment impact on and shape the physical body. Children by nature are adaptive to their surroundings. Their use within the work highlights the importance of creating a sustainable and well-managed environment, a space for future generations. Taylor notes that close to forty percent of coral reefs worldwide has been destroyed and that this figure is set to increase. His work reminds us that the marine environment is in a constant state of flux, and that this in turn reflects poignantly the vicissitudes, changing landscapes, of our own lives.
JASON DECAIRES TAYLOR’S ‘THE LOST CORRESPONDENT’
The Lost Correspondent depicts a man sitting at a desk with a typewriter. The desk is covered with a collection of newspaper articles and cuttings that date back to the 1970s. Many of these have political significance, a number detail Grenada’s alignment with Cuba in the period immediately prior to the revolution. The work informs the rapid changes in communication between generations. Taking the form of a traditional correspondent, the lone figure becomes little more than a relic, a fossil in a lost world.
JASON DECAIRES TAYLOR’S ‘GARDENER OF HOPE’
La Jardinera de la Esperanza (the gardener of hope), depicts a young girl lying on garden patio steps, cultivating a variety of plant pots. The sculpture is sited four metres beneath the surface Punta Nizuc, Cancun. The pots are propagated with live coral cuttings rescued from areas of the reef system damaged by storms and human activity. This technique, a well-established procedure in reef conservation, rescues damaged coral fragments by providing a suitable new substrate.
The sculpture, a synthesis between art and science, conveys a message of hope and prosperity, portraying human intervention as positive and regenerating. The young Girl symbolizes a new, revitalized kinship with the environment, a role model for future generations.
The interaction between the inanimate and living forms highlights a potential symbiotic relationship with the life systems of the underwater world. Over the past few decades we have lost over 40% of our natural coral reefs. Scientists predict a permanent demise of 80% by 2050. The Gardner of Hope is designed to focus attention on this important, often forgotten, ecological issue. Built into the base of the sculpture are specialized habitat spaces designed to encourage individual types of marine creatures such as moray eels, juvenile fish and lobsters.
JASON DECAIRES TAYLOR’S ‘ARCHIVE OF LOST DREAMS’
The Archive of Lost Dreams depicts an underwater archive, maintained by a male registrar. The archive is a collection of hundreds of messages in bottles brought together by the natural forces of the ocean. The registrar is collating the individual bottles and categorising the contents according to the nature of each message – fear, hope, loss, or belonging.
Various communities from a broad spectrum of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds have been invited to provide the messages, which, it is hoped, will document current values and aspirations for future generations to discover.
The sculpture is placed within an area of the national marine park, which had been previously damaged, by hurricanes and tropical storms. The choice of location aims to draw the high number of visitors to the region away from other sections of pristine reef allowing them space to develop naturally.
Oceans teem with microscopic organisms that are constantly drifting down towards the sea bed, attaching to and colonising on the way any hard secure surface, such as rock outcrops, and thereby creating the basis of a natural reef. Coral reefs attract an array of marine life (such as colourful fish, turtles, sea urchins, sponges, and sharks) and also provide enclosed spaces for sea creatures to breed or take refuge.
Only about 10 – 15% of the sea bed has a solid enough substratum to allow reefs to form naturally. In order to increase the number of reefs in these areas artificial reefs have recently been created from materials that are durable, secure and environmentally sensitive. These reefs appear to have been successful in that they have attracted coral growth which, in turn, can support an entire marine ecosystem.
One of the greatest benefits of artificial reefs is that they have lifted the pressure off natural reefs which, over the past few decades, have been over-fished and over-visited. By diverting attention to artificial reefs, natural reefs have now been given a greater chance to repair and to regenerate.
ALL INFORMATION AND PHOTOGRAPHY VIA UNDERWATERSCULPTURE.COM
If you enjoyed this article, the Sifter highly recommends: HYPER-REALISTIC SCULPTURES BY RON MUECK