• Asian Art Advisory

Making waves with art

Many people around the world are doing their part to save our seas, including contemporary artists. Through their art, they evoke powerful sensations that not only celebrate the beauty of the ocean, but also showcase the devastating effects of human impact.

Creating art with an environmental message isn’t new. In the 1960s and 1970s, a group of mainly American artists began to create art that wasn’t meant for the confines of the gallery space. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), a 1,500ft-long mud and rock piece in Utah’s Great Salt Lake, and Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field (1977), a grid of 400 stainless steel poles driven into the New Mexico desert, are two of the best known examples. Partly funded by the dealer and philanthropist Virginia Dawn, the works were never intended to be sold to private collectors.

The Spiral Jetty, photographed by Hikmet Sidney Loe, on June 3, 2017.

This article looks at three examples of contemporary artists whose works raise awareness of the plight of the world's coral reefs.

"Ocean Utopia" - Underwater evolutionary sculptures

Ocean Utopia reminds us that we are shaped by our surroundings, the sculpture will be the starting point for growing new coral reefs, horizontally on the concrete base and vertically in the textured parts of the concrete architectures. The artist defines the composition of her sculptures underwater and will then leave it to the elements to finish her work. The interaction between the sculpture and nature will totally depend on the wind, the sun, the tide, the currents, wildlife and flora.

The coral implementation done directly on the artworks grows through months and years, gradually modifying the visual aspect, shapes and colours, of the architectural screens of her artistic vision.

"In this project, nature and submarine sculptures are mingled, because spots are provided for coral bits which will be implanted on the sculpture. Corals will become part of the architecture. As months and years pass by, these coral implants will themselves become the sculpture," said Val.

"REEF - A Symphonic Seascape"

A more recent example of artists collaborating to raise awareness of the plight of the corals can be found with REEF. The team formed by Charlotte Harding, Jassy Husk and Sally J Clarke hope the emotional power of music will inspire people to act on climate change. The single will be launched in 2020, and incorporates actual sound bites from the reef layered with Husk’s voice. In 2021, the 45-minute symphony and contemporary dance work REEF will be staged. The piece echoes their passion for environmental and wildlife conservation.

Poumons des océans (“Lungs of the Oceans”),

French artist Aude Bourgine crafts coral sculptures within bell jars . Using multimedia techniques, these works highlight the fragility of marine plant life. Her series, Poumons des océans (“Lungs of the Oceans”), is beautifully produced with lively embroidery and glittering beads and sequins. Each piece showcases the dazzling textures and diverse forms of coral, but they also visualise how vulnerable our reefs are.

“If we do not rapidly change our relationship with our environment, oceans will be dead by 2050,” says Bourgine. “Their disappearance will entail a disastrous imbalance on all ecological, climate, and human levels.”