Artist Jason deCaires Taylor cares about preserving the world’s oceans so much so that he incorporates his work with the water element, creating giant size sculptures submerged in the ocean which transform from inert objects into living breathing reefs.
The British-born sculptor’s works are now displayed underwater throughout the world’s waterways. He gained international notoriety in 2006 with the creation of the world’s first underwater sculpture park, situated off the west coast of Grenada in the West Indies. Now listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic the park was instrumental in the government declaring the site a National Marine Protected Area.
Jason deCaires Taylor’s work has been motivated by conservation and redressing climate change, with his underwater museums solely designed to draw divers away from the most fragile and delicate parts of coral reefs.
The works are constructed using pH neutral materials to instigate natural growth and the subsequent changes intended to explore the aesthetics of decay, rebirth and metamorphosis. His pioneering public art projects are not only examples of successful marine conservation, but works of art that seek to encourage environmental awareness, instigate social change and lead everyone to appreciate the breathtaking natural beauty of the underwater world.
Jason deCaires Taylor’s sculptures are truly unique. For anyone who has visited any of the artist’s underwater artworks will see things differently if they are to return to the sculptures at a later date. The sculptures are set up to become home for corals, and the oceans turn them into reefs, which will continue to grow over time as Mother Nature intends.
In 2015, the environmentalist and artist created underwater sculptures, entitled The Rising Tide, on home soil in England. The installation, which sits less than a mile from the Houses of Parliament, features four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Entitled, The Rising Tide, the installation, which sits near the bankside of Vauxhall bridge, comprises four life-size shire horses, standing as a symbol of the origins of industrialisation but also as a warning of the bleak future it is creating for the world by their representation of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
The artist created the installation to bring attention to climate change and the politicians and deniers who repeatedly create damaging deals and policies that affect the environment.
Jason deCaires Taylor creates more than just art. His artworks are masterpieces and ingenious, but there’s a bigger picture and one which serves a larger purpose.
Speaking of his foray into underwater art combined with his climate change activism, he said: “I felt disillusioned that my works were just about creating art – I wanted to do something that maybe went beyond that and was actively beneficial. I started small, working a lot with artificial reefs, and found out about how a lot of conservation was about controlling people’s movements.
“It made me think about how art could divert people away from fragile areas, so the first underwater museum in Cancun was all about taking some of the 750,000 annual visitors away from these natural reefs and fragile environments and bringing them to an area where they minimise their impact.”
Earlier this year Europe’s first underwater museum opened off Lanzarote, the Spanish island that Jason deCaires Taylor now calls home. Museo Atlántico consists of 12 installations and more than 300 life-size human figures, submerged 12-14 metres under water.
Like Jason deCaires Taylor’s other under water spectaculars, the Museo Atlántico collection is designed to provoke environmental awareness and social change, with each piece creating an artificial reef that will promote marine life, and can be ‘toured’ by scuba divers, with a start and an end.
Of the 12 installations, one sculpture particularly stands out in the current political climate. Entitled Crossing the Rubicon, the installation features a 30-metre-long, 100-tonne wall, which Jason deCaires Taylor intends to be “a monument to absurdity, a dysfunctional barrier in the middle of a vast fluid, three-dimensional space, which can be bypassed in any direction”.
The wall sculpture aims to highlight that “notions of ownership and territories are irrelevant to the natural world”. Jason deCaires Taylor added: “In times of increasing patriotism and protectionism the wall aims to remind us that we cannot segregate our oceans, air, climate or wildlife as we do our land and possessions. We forget we are all an integral part of a living system at our peril.”
The first works of Museo Atlántico’s collection were installed in February 2016. Designed to create a large-scale artificial reef, the area of ocean has already seen an increase of over 200% in marine biomass and are now frequented by rare angel sharks, schools of barracudas and sardines, octopus, marine sponges and the occasional butterfly ray.
An inspiration to many, Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater travels have most recently taken him to Indonesia, where he has installed another man-made reef. Depicting a circle of 48 life-size figures, standing together and curled up on the ground, Nest sits off the coast of the small island of Gili Meno between Bali and Lombok.
He said: “First and foremost Nest is an environmental space. The figures are arranged in a circular formation as an echo of the circle of life, and they will soon teem with life. Soft corals and sponges should flourish quickly paving the way for delicate hard corals and a fully established reef.”
The island, which has a permanent population of just 500 people, is known for its turtle population and its ecosystem. With its delicate environment, the sculpture is made from a pH neutral, environmental-grade concrete and based on casts of real people.