For the past five years, British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor has transformed seabeds off Mexico and Grenada into underwater art sites. The 39-year-old from Canterbury, Kent, sculpts life-size statues, then submerges them at depths of nearly 30 feet. His work is featured in new book “The Underwater Museum”, published by Chronicle Books.
Q&A: “Practical & educational” – Jason deCaires Taylor, sculptor, 39, from Canterbury, England, based in Lanzarote, Spain
Metro: How did you come up with underwater sculpture?
Jason deCaires Taylor: I started to explore how I could adopt a more conservationist approach in my sculpture. Being a diver and watching how we are losing swathes of coral reefs I felt inspired to take action. An artificial reef – where marine life (and tourists) gravitate towards objects – seemed the perfect way for art to help the planet in a practical and educational way.
Help? How exactly? The reef encourages fish and coral to live and grow there, while the human statues are linked to the concept of climate change. This art-meets-reef – a sort of visual regeneration – can instill a sense of hope and recovery.
Aside from educating, what does it invoke in you?
Surprise and excitement. It’s the opposite of a traditional museum experience as each encounter is different and dynamic. On a stormy day when visibility is low, the pieces take on a very somber archeological presence. And when conditions are good, you can see the amazing colors imbued on its surfaces.
What did you yourself learn in your project?
Life underwater is very hard to predict. I had to research a lot into using the correct materials, surface textures, and even placement of the pieces, so that the reef could successfully spawn.
By the numbers
There are 450 of permanent life-size sculptures by Taylor stand on the seabeds of MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), a subaquatic museum in the waters surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc, Mexico. The total installations occupy an area of over 420 square meters of seabed and weighing over 200 tons.
Taylor’s work is also exhibited in the waters of Moilinere Bay, on Grenada’s west coast.