Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Nottingham-on-Sea: Aquatopia

On 11 September I will be leading a Gallery Walk-through at Nottingham Contemporary, where the strange and wonderful exhibition Aquatopia is showing. My excuse is that they have a couple of Ravilious's Submarine Lithographs on display in the exhibition, but this is the kind of art show I love: literary, eclectic and thought-provoking.

As the title suggests, this isn't an exhibition of nautical art but an exploration of the ocean as a dreamworld of the imagination, by turns utopian and dystopian. Giant squid loom large, alongside water babies and mermaids. There are divers, sharks and Sirens, and even a representation of Shakespeare's 'fish-like' Caliban.

The work itself ranges from 19th century British oil paintings and Japanese prints to unsettling contemporary sculpture and installation pieces, with plenty that is playful or adventurous. Jules Verne is a significant backstage presence, quite rightly as his '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' took generations of readers beneath the waves at a time when only deep sea divers could explore the ocean, and that in the most limited way.

When Eric Ravilious made his lithograph of a diver, in 1941/2, subaquatic exploration and photography were still in their infancy; post-war, Jacques Cousteau brought the oceans into our living rooms, but his scuba teams could only explore reefs and shallow waters. Today, the depths remain as mysterious as distant galaxies, and every child who puts on a snorkel and mask and peers under the surface knows that the undersea world is exciting, scary and strange.

So I'm looking forward to my visit to Nottingham. Do come along - the gallery walk-through is free, and it should be a lot of fun.

The gallery views above were taken from the Nottingham Contemporary flickr page, and copyright remains with the photographer.

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