Close to the island of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, the Atlantic Ocean appears calmly serene, but the deep, blue waters conceal a striking sculptural intervention. Beneath the sea, 14 meters below the surface, stand 300 human-sized concrete artworks, waiting to be slowly subsumed by delicate marine vegetation. Schools of fish swim amongst the sculptures, which appear frozen in time.
Each aquatic humanoid is cast from the mould of an actual, living person; they wear contemporary clothing and appear to be taking part in everyday activities, like reading a book or playing on a park see-saw. Whimsical and spiritual, this project is the latest work by sculptor and environmental activist Jason deCaires Taylor, known for his mind-boggling underwater installations around the globe. His latest work, the Museo Atlántico, Lanzarote, consists of 12 evocative installations, each commenting on a current humanitarian issue.
Taylor completed his first underwater sculpture collection in 2013: the Museo Subacuático de Arte, off the coast of Cancún, Mexico. Atmospheric and soul-stirring, Taylor’s sculptures appear to be thoughtful, contemplative beings. Each sculpture purposefully has closed eyes, giving the figures a pensive and ghostly vibe. “Every piece is molded from real people,” Taylor tells The Creators Project. “Each of the sculptures has their eyes closed, not only to protect the subject’s eyes but because it gives them a rather dreamy and timeless quality.” Every sculpture represents a different type of person in today’s world, creating a dialogue on understanding societal diversity, whilst mirroring the living, breathing humans they were once molded from.
Museo Atlántico differs from Taylor’s previous work, in that it contains a botanical garden, a 30-meter wall, and 200 sculptures arranged in a gyre. “This project is very different from Museo Subacuático de Arte, as not only is it more of an architectural project (having built a 30-meter wall) but in terms of the environment and ecosystem in which the collection is placed,” Taylor explains. “The Atlantic Ocean has a very different ecosystem and conditions from the Caribbean Sea, where my first collection is based. The Atlantic is an opaque blue and not a clear ocean like the Caribbean. This environment gives my sculptures a different feeling and makes this collection much more atmospheric.”
Not only aesthetically pleasing, Taylor’s work combats the ongoing devastation of marine environments. His creations play an important role in ocean conservation, not only by drawing attention to environmental concerns, which are often overlooked, but also by acting as artificial reefs, creating habitats for fish and coral to flourish in parts of the world where those ecosystems are endangered. His work makes a strong case for the role that humans can play in nurturing and supporting marine life.
Museo Atlántico does not only combat environmental issues, it comments on humanitarian affairs. For example, The Raft of Lampedusa portrays a group of migrants on their difficult journey to Europe. “For me, this project is different because I'm approaching divergent issues. Not only do my sculptures comment on aquamarine concerns, but also climate change, immigration, and other humanitarian problems,” Taylor says. “Each of the 12 installations is set out in a linear path. Each installation paints a particular story, illustrating a prevalent message that needs to be addressed in today’s society.”
For more images of Taylor's underwater sculptures, click here.