What happens to artworks when we don’t look at them? Sculptures and paintings don’t change in any obvious way when we are not looking at them. In fact, if the right temperature and degree of humidity are observed, we can probably assume that most artworks when we leave them, will stay the same until we look at them again.
But if you were to ask this question about the works by the British sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor, the answer would be completely different. As Taylor’s sculptures exist far away from the eyes of the visitor. These installations lie at the bottom of the sea and can only be seen by those who dive down to explore them.
Jason deCaires Taylor, Cannes Underwater Museum, Île Sainte-Marguerite
No two visitors see the same artwork. In fact, Jason deCaires Taylor’s pieces are brought gradually to life through the union of sculpture and the marine world that surrounds them. His works are completed by the various forms of ocean life that attach to them and change them. The passing of time is indicated by the proliferation of marine flora and fauna that adhere to the human figures sculpted by the artist, sealing a pact of coexistence between these man-made artefacts and the marine environment in which they are installed.
In fact, Jason deCaires Taylor’s pieces are brought gradually to life through the union of sculpture and the marine world that surrounds them.
Jason deCaires Taylor, Hybrid Garden, Lanzarote
Swimming through the underwater museum in Lanzarote, the mingling of human and natural creation is immediately apparent in Hybrid Garden, a small sculpture garden depicting succulent plants, decontextualised from their native environment and relocated on the seabed. There is a dual conceptual leap here. As these sculptures not only imitate nature, they are an imitation inserted in a foreign ecosystem, where they invite the surrounding environment to come and grow on them and change them.
Sometimes Taylor’s works are a specific invitation to marine creatures, as the artist deliberately designs certain sculptures with cracks, cuts and holes that allow underwater fauna and flora to grow. This is the case with Holy Man, the sculpture placed on the seabed in Mexico.
Jason deCaires Taylor, Holy Man, Mexico
In the Land Art tradition, Jason deCaires Taylor’s sculptures blend in with the natural environment and allow nature to interact with them and help make them part of the landscape. The way the natural environment interferes with these works also constantly alters the viewer’s experience. The surface of the water, for example, changes continually on account of currents and ripples, and this affects light refraction. In the same way, the depth of the water alters the visual colour spectrum. The ocean’s cycles, the depositing of eggs and the currents on the seabed have an impact on the visibility of the water, that produces new changes in the visual experience of the works.
Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater museums that are located on sea floors throughout the world, encourage visitors to dive into the life of the ocean and become a part of it. Natural light plays a fundamental role in inviting viewers to open their eyes underwater and observe the life of marine ecosystems, as it allows the works to be seen and creates a sort of magical underwater realism that makes the messages and themes of Jason deCaires Taylor’s works even more iconic. As these are sculptures that offer profound reflections on the way human beings can live together with marine ecosystems while celebrating all their beauty and fragility.