Tell me a bit about your background and how you started out in the art world?
My mother is an artist and I spent my formative years in Paris, with frequent visits to museums and annual trips to the Fondation Maeght. After studying English with Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, I began my career as an arts writer, at a small magazine called Tribute in post-apartheid South Africa, Johannesburg, 1998. During this time I met an artist who would change my life, Phillip Hunt (his monumental painting is in Blue Minds), and I understood that the philosophy I had hoped to learn in university was to be found in conversations with artists.
Returning to London I continued writing art features for numerous titles, and I was nominated to the Critics Circle, but soon the majority of my work was commissioned directly by artists and galleries, producing catalogue and title essays for galleries such as Ibid Gallery, Art Bastion, Cadogan Contemporary, JGM Art, and Saatchi for a wide range of artists.
How did the Blue Minds exhibition come about with the Blue Marine Foundation and why were you drawn to the project?
After curating a series of shows for Art Bastion in the US, including Andrea Hamilton’s work, and being asked for “something blue” in 2017, I curated a show at AH STUDIO with 8 artists called The Blue Edition. This was on the story of blue as a colour in art and how this amplifies our feelings. It traveled to the US and included Chris Levine’s light works, where I met the curator Regan Rosberg, who introduced me to the ideas of environmental melancholia and our collective social mania. This made me think about how art has the capacity to reconnect us, highlight our relationship with nature, and to open up a dialogue between facts and imagination.
Then I was introduced to Clare Brook, CEO of Blue who also loved Andrea Hamilton’s photography and she gave me a real sense of hope, that through ocean conservation we have the opportunity to really address climate breakdown. I felt so inspired and knew that this was an important message to transmit and that there were so many artists already working either with ocean/ water as subject, or in collaboration with scientists and researchers.
Curating all 26 artists in this show was a collective effort between myself, AH STUDIO and the art advisor Julia Campbell Carter. We also have Elisabetta Cipriani Gallery Wearable Art, Manifestations Art Couture, Stories of Art, Acampora, Chasing the Light, and Chene Bleu Couture Winemakers as committee members, and the space on Sloane Street was provided by Catherine Prevost.
What is the key message of the exhibition?
Blue Minds asks two central questions: why have we become disconnected from water, and how can artists help us to find creative solutions? If we consider art like the ocean’s surface – a beautiful mirror to the world – then the creative process can be likened to what happens beneath the waves. It is there, in that hidden space of trial and error, of observation and form creation, that we find solutions for a sustainable future.
This exhibition is about connection and hope, there is so much melancholia about climate breakdown, but the Ocean is the answer – it provides every second breath we take, sequesters carbon, gives us food, and cools the earth down. If we just give it a break, as seen in marine reserve “hope spots” it is incredibly resilient, and species quickly thrive again. The Blue Marine Foundation has so many incredible projects both here and in our overseas territories. We wanted to highlight this hope, with art that inspires, opens up a connection to blue spaces, and encourages creative thinking.
Sound Pollution emerged as a theme of central importance – of sound pollution in the ocean, sound travels far greater distances than light under water, and is the primary sense for marine life – and how this mirrors our need to listen more to nature and each other.
What are some of the highlights and are there any artists you would like to mention? What is it that is particularly thought-provoking about their work?
In a way there are two sides to this show – above and below – those artists who observe the surface of the ocean, the interplay of light and the waves and those who do a deep dive into the body of water and explore how water alters or activates our other senses.
Emma Critchley is a British artist who works under water using a combination of photography, film, sound and installation to explore the human relationship with the underwater environment as a political, philosophical and environmental space. The Space Below is a sound installation and research project by artists Emma Critchley and Lee Berwick responding to the issue of acoustic sound pollution in our oceans.
Mariele Neudecker uses a broad range of media, including sculpture, film, and sound. Neudecker looks at our interpretation of representations of landscapes, throughout art-history in paintings, photographs or as part of our memories and consciousness.
Nothing Will Stay the Same is a tank-sculpture that is filled with water, and addresses the subject of Arctic exploration / landscape, as represented in William Bradford’s ‘Scene in the Arctic’ (1880). The work stands still, yet continuously changes, between this temporary illusion of a reality and the reproduction and (mis)placement of its parts.
Phillip Hunt is a South African artist who first made me realise that creativity is sacred and not something you can force into a commercial system. Hunt’s paintings tilt us into a moment of the sublime; rich swathes of colour draw us into deep pools of reflection, and we surrender our imaginations before monolithic shapes that encircle the horizon. They express something lasting and ancient about our relationship with the earth.
Andrea Hamilton’s systematic collection of subjects within a strict conceptual framework (Chroma, Tidal Resonance and Luminous Icescapes) over extended time periods has resulted in comprehensive archives. These are retrospectively organised according to common visual characteristics (movement, colour, and light) into series which highlight specific themes: the nature of time and memory; our relationship with the environment; colour theory; being; and the representation of truth.
Finally, we are so lucky to be screening a film by Maya Sanbar, Aquarela, on 5th of July at 2pm. Taking audiences on a journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water, the film will be followed by a Q&A with director Victor Kossakovsky and Sanbar.
Sanbar will also be previewing Footsteps on the Wind, her Oscar-qualifying short animation film Footsteps On The Wind, ahead of its European Premier at the Serpentine Gallery in September, and she was invited to collaborate on an immersive installation for BLUE MINDS. Evoking the sensorial shift experienced in water, she encourages the viewer to slow down and listen.
“This work is about listening to the many voices in the ocean of humanity, and not being overwhelmed. It is about connecting to the calm or peace that can be found by being in or close to water.”
The Blue Minds exhibition will be open from 24th June – 6th July at 127 Sloane Street, SW1 X9AS. To book tickets for the exhibition, please click here.