OCEANS APART How making sea-themed art brought us back together
My research project questioned how art can connect us to ourselves,
each other and art itself. The participants were a group of children aged 4
to 10, their parents/carers and 3 artworkers. For the youngest
children in our project, the pandemic had lasted half their lifetime.
Making art together was a new experience.
The project’s space had three elements: the deconsecrated Holy Trinity
Church; Fabrica, the art gallery it currently houses, and the gallery’s
immersive art exhibition about endurance sea swimming. It was the
exhibition’s huge projected video which breathed the space to life – and
the children to life – with its underwater images of jelly fish and bubbles
of the sea-swimmer’s breath.
The young artists were enthusiastic, excitable and – having been in
school all day – hungry. We turned our snacks into art, making jelly
beaches, banana boat Sundays, bread fishes pasted with avocado
humus. Only the brave would eat the seaweed crackers. We read sea
stories and their art rolled out on to paper, boxes, pebbles and ice.
If I was looking at how art connected us, it was adapting the art to the
children’s needs that facilitated this connection. Through their art they
were seen; through their art they were fed. Art, like food, could be their
bread and butter. Art, like the sea, could belong to everybody.
We became the under the sea art-making community.
This installation of sea and beach with sounds which echo the project, is
my response to that experience.
Shaw, C. (2022). There must be a song somewhere [Song] derived from Tharpe, S.R. and Knight M.S. (1947). Up above my head I hear music in the air [Song]. Decca. New York.
Todd, S. (2023). The Young Artists [poem] (not sure where this is published-assuming it’s a poem?)
The Man With the Hat (2015). ‘Ocean Waves on Pebble Beach’. Available at: You Tube <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOZb2_oQZz0> (Accessed: June 2023)
Blown in on rough seas
To a project no-on quite understood
Until together we made it happen
You knew what you wanted
Your knowing bounced off the church walls, pinging round the jellyfish like a pinball wizard, mingling with the bubbles of the long distance swimmer.
Gathering, like minnows around the story book, around the paper roll, around the ice boats and washi tape.
Poseidon’s belly must be filled with art that is food and food that is art. We toasted our completion – a community in that moment.