- Art at Sea with Schmidt Ocean Institue
Things have been a bit hectic in my world this year… what a change from last years time of reflection during shutdowns. With my recent journey being out of my reach due to shutdown it was refreshing in February to finally make it over the Qld border and be ensconced away in a COVID safe bubble on board a research vessel in the Coral Sea Marine Park for a 30 dayresidency.
The RV Falkor is the flagship of SOI the Schmidt Ocean Institute, they have an ‘Artist at Sea’ program which is an amazing experience being given the opportunity to work alongside scientists, using the latest in deep sea mapping or ROV (remote operated vehicle) technology to explore our ocean worlds. My journey on a mapping expedition was one of calm seas and expansive views which gave me time to create works that reflected the research being carried out.
I was so unsure of what I could do on this trip that I took a mini studio with me,
a range of drawing materials including a 10m roll of Japanese bamboo paper, a few sheets of Arches, and a 10m roll of rice paper (fitting neatly inside the other), not to mention my pastels, watercolours and acrylics, along with relief inks, rollers, a baren and solar plates.
Inspiration was easy and one significant revelation was the images from the sea floor mapping that was taking place. A Bathymetric Multi Beam Sonar was collecting data of what was below the ship and in the majority of times kilometres below. This open source project is part of an international plan to map the worlds oceans by 2030. These images became the motivation behind my ritual of daily drawings, from the computer generated image
to my interpretation in graphite.
How could you not find this invisible world fascinating? However, it was not just the individual images that were blowing my mind, it was the patterns that our journey was making across the sea floor as each day we exposed the sea floor and mounts sometimes kms in height. I was so glad that I brought along some solar plates to translate the drawn line.These were (and proved to be) the best option, as I figured that anything that involved sharp objects like lino or wood could become lethal if the ship lurched suddenly and as there are chemical disposal issues at sea some other plate types that I had to hand would not be appropriate. Not to mention that having space for a mini press for dry point may not have been practical, solar was what I saw as the way to go.
It was like a revelation to see how our mapping had developed by the halfway point. The layering was to become my muse and that with the help of fellow traveller and scientist Alysha Johnson would take my ideas to the next level. We expand these images on the computer to 80x their real height to create this image of our trip so far.
Such exciting visuals! But I was in the middle of the Coral Sea, and that had its own quirks.The beautiful clean air and strong sunlight created a time exposure issue in exposing the solar plates. The sun is so intense here that having been used to doing exposures around the 3min mark for the midday sun at home, it took a few test plates to finally settle on a 40 sec exposure time at 10am.
Yet this was not my only issue, that clear air and sunlight also penetrated my drawn image using a sharpie. It was just not dense enough to block this sun, so my exposures were bleeding through so after a bit of trial and error I finally resorted to using a paint pen to get a solid enough image that still had the feel of the drawn line.
Time Amplified is a series of prints that I did for those that I travelled with, 33 prints one for each person on board. Other layers I am still working on but having ended up with 4 workable plates for relief printing whilst on board, it was so much fun.
My drawings ranged from the daily drawings (seen earlier) to a Japanese book as well as a 10m mechanical drawing (on Japanese Bamboo paper) that used the ships movement to create the marks.
It excited me to be so flexible to work with paintings, prints and drawings on this voyage. Ithas left me with an extensive body of work, one that is still growing. My hope is that this will form part of a future exhibition, I will keep you posted.