Jason deCaires Taylor is basically a sculptor and makes artistic pieces which are technically within the realm of contemporary sculpture; the only difference is that his wondrous creations are submerged under water forcing us to rethink our long standing ideas of space, perspective, material structure and ecology.
38 years old and born to an English father and Guyanese mother, Jason deCaires Taylor is an eco-warrior, but with a difference. Where most environmentalists commonly patronise what is on top of the land, he chooses to focus on what lies under the sea.
Taylor’s love for marine life is logical as he spent much of his growing years exploring the coral reefs of Malaysia, having had this opportunity as he lived in both Europe and Asia as a child. Educated in the South East of England, Taylor graduated from the London Institute of Arts in 1998 with a BA Honours in Sculpture and went on to become a fully qualified diving instructor and underwater naturalist.
With over 17 years diving experience under his belt, Taylor is also an award winning underwater photographer, famous for his dramatic images, which capture the metamorphosing effects of the ocean on his ever evolving sculptures.
You see, he crafts his masterpieces on land and then submerges them offering those who endeavour to view them by diving down to certain lengths, ephemeral encounters created by the interaction of nature on stone that has been sculpted in one-of-a-kind forms.
His site-specific, permanent installations are designed to act as artificial reefs, attracting corals, increasing marine biomass and aggregating fish species. They also help in diverting tourists away from fragile natural reefs, thus providing scope for a natural rejuvenation. The invited transformation that occurs in his sculptures underwater, underscores the thought that if desired, the rampant damage caused to the planet can not only be arrested but even repaired; the only pre-requisite is compassion and action.
Jason’s art is not only replete with skill and imagination but it also demands an active participation from its patrons; it requires them to dive down to lengths of at least 4 metres to enjoy and understand the ideology behind his craft.
Almost all of the viewers of Jason’s craft enjoy the thrill of diving and exploring, but after having viewed these unique ‘marine’ installations come away changed somewhat, quietly deliberating on the hard-hitting message they receive.
It is mostly human forms that he creates, either singly or in groups. All such sculptures are based on living people who are life casted. Additionally he creates architectural forms or maybe even just everyday objects.
To encourage coral inhabitation he uses a mix of marine grade cement, sand and micro-silica to produce a pH neutral concrete which is reinforced with fibreglass rebar. Over time the sculptures’ phenotypical qualities alter as they slowly evolve from rock to living artificial reefs,they forfeit their original look to the underwater environs and eventually fulfil their intended purpose of becoming a welcome addition to a deprived ecosystem.
Since 2006 Jason has created and founded two large scale underwater museums, one on the island of Grenada in the West Indies, which has subsequently been documented as a “Wonder of the World” by National Geographic and a monumental collection of over 412 pieces in Mexico called MUSA (Museo Subaquático de Arte), now listed by Forbes as one of the world’s most unique travel destinations.
When quizzed if he had an idea of how yet another craft could be used to draw attention on environmental issues, Jason responded, “I am very interested in sculptures (showcased on land) that are climatic barometers, for example pieces that turn a different colour when too much pollution is present, or change shape due to excess heat. I think people perceive problems as more “real” if they are able to visually connect.”
About his future, Jason reveals, “At the moment I am looking at building a new project in Asia and surveying potential sites. I am also developing a new technique that creates large scale fish sanctuaries and developing pieces that are entirely made from coral with hardly any base surface.”
This distinctive artist’s work shows that it is not creativity alone that can drive human imagination, but also the need to solve and overcome problems. Be it through the uniqueness of his process or arbitrary guidelines set by himself, his works assume therapeutic proportions, those which endeavour to heal and negate the ongoing onslaught on nature. The result is a cult art which is born out of an original and compassionate logic all of its own.
Text By Mala Bajaj
Photographs Jason deCaires Taylor