An Underwater Art Scene Blossoms in the Ocean, by Michael Carroll

It was summer 2012, and British schoolteacher Polly Shoebridge was nervous as she prepared to scuba dive for the first time. She was in the water in full dive gear, building up courage to descend off the coast of Cancún, Mexico.

“Initially, I focused on breathing,” she recalls. “Then as I went down, I started to relax. I could see a group of human-like figures with their heads up as if they were looking up at me from below. As I got closer, I could see red, green and blue coral growing from the heads and bodies. I was amazed by the brightly colored fish swimming between the figures that were standing at the bottom of the sea. It was as if the life-sized sculptures were coming alive.”

This dive was Shoebridge’s first encounter with the spectacular work of British-Guyanan underwater artist Jason deCaires Taylor, which has been compared to that of fellow Briton Antony Gormley (famous for the 66-foot-tall Angel of the North statue in Gateshead, England).

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6-25-underwater-art-10 The identical positioning of the figures in a pray like pose aims to highlight a shifting in values and misplaced idealism towards monetary remuneration. Actually one of the easiest sculptures to create it has become one of the most popular and resonated with the public. Jason deCaires Taylor

The Cancún project started in 2009, when Taylor formed an alliance with the directors of the National Marine Park and Cancún Nautical Association to create an iconic underwater museum called the Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA). The site now plays an important part in the Yucatán’s ecotourism economy. MUSA estimates 250,000 people now visit the site each year, contributing an estimated $20 million directly to the local economy.


Photographs: Sculptures at the Bottom of the Ocean
The British-Guyanan underwater artist Jason deCaires Taylor is part of a worldwide movement of artists transforming spaces on the seafloor into underwater galleries.

“By enlisting the help of local volunteers, I was able to transform what was a barren seabed into a 420-square-meter wildlife haven,” says Taylor. “The total weight of the artificial structures was 200 tons. So far, I have made 510 sculptures of real people, recruited almost entirely from the local community. I achieved this by taking casts and replicating these in materials that tend to promote coral growth. These were placed on the ocean floor to form the base for coral colonization and a new habitat for life. Over time, I was astounded to see tubes growing out of the eyes of the statues and invertebrates making their homes on them.”

Jonathan LeVine, founder of the Jonathan LeVine Gallery of New York, has curated Taylor’s underwater photography of his work. “Taylor’s statues are in the tradition of classical figurative sculpture, but with a contemporary twist,” says LeVine. “It’s very much an Old World practice worked into recognizable and sometimes funny situations.”

6-25-underwater-art-09 Of of Jason’s first pieces in Grenada. The piece worked so well in its coral corridor that it inspired the remaining works to be constructed to form the complete sculpture garden. Jason deCaires Taylor

Unlike walking through a museum, “viewing art underwater is a fully immersive activity,” he explains. “You’re floating, the senses are different, as well as temperatures. Sometimes you could be fighting against a current to see the work from the angle you want. You’re experiencing art in a much more dynamic environment. The sunlight varies at different times of day, coral is growing, fish are swimming—it’s a totally otherworldly experience.”

Taylor’s work is part of a worldwide movement of artists transforming spaces on the seafloor into underwater galleries. Since Italian sculptor Guido Galletti sank a bronze cast of Christ into the seabed off the coast of Genoa in 1954, artists from across the world have recognized the opportunity the seabed presents for showcasing art. The Christ of the Deep has traveled to Florida since then. Its third casting sits in John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park, near Key Largo.

Ecology and the celebration of sea life are recurring themes in underwater art forms. In Bali, U.S. artist Colleen Flanigan created giant steel-mesh structures shaped into wavelike forms. She fused pioneering scientific theory on coral growth with her art. “I sank the structures into the seabed and passed an electrostatic current through them,” she explains. “This attracted minerals, which the coral lives off and grows at an accelerated rate. That was 2004. A decade on, we can see a thriving biomass in a place previously devastated by dynamite and cyanide fishing.”

6-25-underwater-art-08 A classical still life which is continuously changing and inscribed by prevailing conditions. Jason deCaires Taylor

Divers can find more than sculptures at the bottom of the ocean. Australian painter BJ Price has turned the Great Barrier Reef into a gallery for a series of his abstract paintings. These were sublimated onto aluminum, which acts as a canvas for his work. “The clarity of the water, the ever-constant play of light and dynamic colors of this pristine marine environment enhances everything about the art experience,” Price says.

Since her visit to Cancún two years ago, Shoebridge’s interest in Taylor’s work has continued. She is sitting for Taylor’s new seabed installation, as part of her vacation in Lanzarote—the easternmost of the Canary Islands—this summer. “Jason told me that because I have an athletic build and I’m not too skinny, I would be a perfect underwater statue,” she says. “I was posed as if I was looking down at my mobile phone, and plaster was placed over my whole body by his team of assistants.”

Shoebridge’s likeness will be just one of Taylor’s thousand-strong army of underwater statues off Lanzarote. Crowds of underwater statues will be separated by a wall, representing how our world is divided into haves and have-nots. “It will be surreal to go back next year when the dive site opens and find myself under the sea,” says Shoebridge. “I just hope I don’t end up on the wrong side of the fence.”

Published in Newsweek

Great deCaires Taylor in Lanzarote

Born in 1974 to an English father and Guyanese mother, Taylor grew up in Europe and Asia, where he spent much of his early childhood exploring the coral reefs of Malaysia. 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 18 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 evolving sculptures.


His pioneering public art projects are not only examples of successful marine conservation, but inspirational works of art that seek to encourage environmental awareness, instigate social change and lead us to appreciate the breathtaking natural beauty of the underwater world.

Taylor’s studio is currently based in Lanzarote part of the Canary Islands.

Taylor working in Lanzarote with Rosario Valenciano
(Creative Commons Licence Images)

Underwater Art website from U.K.

Nicky’s career has been varied & exciting from working in a local portrait studio to securing a prestigious management post at Cambridge Universty photographic & illustration department.

With a desire to push her boundaries in 2003 Focusfirst Photography was born, concentrating firstly on contemporary weddings. Now she has proven to be a much sort after wedding photographer. Her artistic eye and ability to put the clients at ease with the camera creates informal beatiful images.

In 2006 Nicky took her baby daughter to classes with her local swim school Dolphin Birthlight, Inspired by the lessons she just had to capture that magic on camera. With her scuba diving experience & a passion to perfect the image she was given the wonderful opportunity to capture the children swimming.

Now Nicky is a leader in her field specialising in stunning images of babies & children above & under the water. She is also proud to uphold her reputation of the gentle approach to her Underwater Art. The child’s wishes are always respected & they are never pushed.

Swimming is great fun & bonding experience for the child & adult alike. Nicky feels passionate about capturing the freedom & pure pleasure children have above & under the water.

Excellent friendly service & outstanding customer care is a must; all staff are CRB checked



Molinere Inderwater Sculpture Park

The Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park is a collection of ecological underwater contemporary art located in the Caribbean sea off the west coast of Grenada, West Indies and was created by British sculptor Jason DeCaires Taylor. In May 2006 the world’s first underwater sculpture park was open for public viewing. Taylor′s aim was to engage local people with the underwater environment that surrounds them using his works which are derived from life casts of the local community. He installed cement figures onto the ocean floor, mostly consisting of a range of human forms, from solitary individuals to a ring of children holding hands, facing into the oceanic currents.




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Reef Ball Foundation

The Reef Ball Foundation is a 501(c) 3 publicly supported non-profit and international environmental NGO working to rehabilitate marine reefs.

Our mission is to rehabilitate our world’s oceanreef ecosystems and to protect our natural reef systems using Reef Ball artificial reef technologies. Reef Balls are artificial reef modules placed in the ocean to form reef habitat.

We have placed Reef Balls™ in 59+ countries and our projects have a global reach of 70+ countries.  We have conducted over 4,000 projects and deployed over 1/2 million Reef Balls.

Our projects include designed artificial reefs, ground breaking coral propagation and planting systems, estuary restoration, red mangrove plantings, oyster reef restoration, erosion control (often beach erosion), and expert collaberation on a variety of oceanic issues.

We work with governments, other NGOs, businesses, schools, research institutes, private individuals and community organizations and emphasize education on preserving and protecting our natural reefs.


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Talking with Jason DeCaires Taylor

Underwater artist Jason DeCaires Taylor is pained by the scientific prediction that 80% of coral reefs will be permanently lost by 2050. As a diver, he appreciates the sea and believes humans have a natural calling to the water. To honor this relationship, and to protect and encourage the growth of coral reefs, Taylor has sculpted human figures that attract and anchor coral, and therefore can sustain the biodiversity of the area.

Underwater Sculpture 1

The sculptures, showcased under the sea, are made from marine grade cement, sand and micro-silica. The artworks must coexist harmoniously with ocean life, and therefore, the materials must be carefully formulated. When Environmental Graffiti asked Taylor how much science or knowledge of science contributes to his art, he responded:

“I have no scientific background, so much of the research behind the sculptures has been in collaboration with marine biologists from the national marine park here in Mexico and also from Reefball, an artificial reef company based in the US. It is a very important aspect of the sculptures as the materials have to be exactly the right ph[-factor] to attract corals,  deployed at the right time of year to co-inside with coral spawning and of course the exact placement defined, in terms of depth and location as this can attract various types of species.”

Underwater Sculpture 2

“At the moment, I am  working with scientists on propagating coral, where you take one species and use ‘cuttings’ like you would with a plant to increase overall biomass of the reef. Providing holes of a certain shape and diameter can also encourage particular species like lobsters or blenies.”

Underwater Artist 2

Aesthetics also factor in to Taylor’s work. He has created hundreds of awe-inspiring figures of artificial coral, in seemingly natural human positions, casually living beneath the water’s surface. Taylor fathoms such projects by “imagining a world where our streets and houses are all 50m under the sea.” Environmental Graffiti asked how human subject matter is appropriate for an underwater sculpture garden, and Taylor explained:

“I have chosen to focus on human forms for many reasons, firstly the shape of an object is rapidly changed underwater and if you begin with an abstract form it generally becomes completely unrecognizable very quickly.”

Underwater Sculpture

“Also, I am trying to portray how human intervention or interaction with nature can be positive and sustainable, an icon of how we can live in a symbiotic relationship with nature. Finally  I believe we have to address some of the crucial problems occurring in our oceans at this moment in time and by using human forms I can connect with a wider audience.”

Underwater Sculpture

Securing sustainable sculptures under the sea is a complicated process. First, Taylor must anticipate the aesthetic changes of viewing his work through water.

Underwater Artist 7

“The experience of being underwater is vastly different from that of being on land. Objects appear twenty five percent larger underwater, and as a consequence they also appear closer. Colors alter as light is absorbed and reflected at different rates, with the depth of the water affecting this further. The light source in water is from the surface, this produces kaleidoscopic effects governed by water movement, currents and turbulence. Water is a malleable medium in which to travel enabling the viewer to become active in their engagement with the work. The large number of angles and perspectives from which the sculptures can be viewed increase dramatically the unique experience of encountering the works.”

Underwater Sculpture

To install his sculptures, Taylor and a crew of up to 15 people use a vessel with a lifting arm. Float bags are attached to the pieces so they can be more gracefully placed. Anchoring screws secure the sculptures to the ocean substrate.

Underwater Artist 9

Currently, Taylor’s work is featured in an Underwater Sculpture
Garden in Grenada, West Indies. In December 2010, the Cancun Marine Park will open an exhibit of 400 sculptures, which can be viewed by snorkelling, diving and from glass-bottom boats. The project will cost $350,000 and is partially funded by the Mexican government. Taylor considers his work to be “donated to the sea.”

Underwater Sculpture

Taylor’s artwork promises to slow the decline of corals, and demonstrates how people can creatively reverse the damages already incurred to our world. Taylor says,”You can use sculpture as a way to convey hope, inspiring people to consider their interactions with the natural world and build a sustainable future.” For more details on Taylor’s work visit Underwater Sculpture.

Underwater Artist 11

Underwater Artist 4

Underwater Artist 6

Anima, Marine Life Image Bank

ANIMA is an image Bank specialising in Marine Life and Natural History illustrations. Our realistic and scientifically accurate images include underwater scenes as well as over 3000 individual portraits of fishes, crustaceans, molluscs and a wide range of other animals.


Register as a member to create your own lightbox of images. ANIMA can also create a high quality digital print of any image you find in our collection.

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Roger Swainston, the aussie underwater artist

Roger Anthony Swainston is an Australian painter. Naturalist and zoologist, he is one of the most recognized artists of the underwater world.


He was raised in the Western Australian outback surrounded by wildlife. The unique Australian flora and fauna fascinated and inspired him from an early age and he has drawn and painted it since childhood. In the late 70’s he travelled and worked around the north coast of Australia on fishing trawlers. The endless variety of undersea life he encountered in their nets encouraged him to undertake further studies and he graduated from the University of W.A. with a degree in Zoology in 1981. He then worked in the fish department of the WA Museum and took part in a variety of scientific expeditions. These included surveying the fish fauna of West Australia’s south coast with the WA Museum, the deepwater fauna off the northwest shelf with [CSIRO][1] and the reef fauna of Papua New Guinea with CRI. During this period he also illustrated numerous guidebooks on the identification of fish and other marine life and worked with scientific institutions around the world such as; the Smithsonian Institute, United Nations FAO, CSIRO and many other Museums and government departments concerned with the marine environment.

In 1990 he moved to France and spent several years working from a studio in Paris, where he further diversified and developed his work. Illustrations from this period are held by “Musee National des Arts et Traditions Populaires” and Ministry of the Environment and he is presently the official artist for the “Conseil Superieur de la Peche” in France. Whilst continuing to provide illustrations for a wide range of clients he began to work on methods of capturing the complexity of marine environments. This led to a documentary being made on Roger’s project, to draw underwater a reef in the Red Sea. Upon his return to Australia in 1996 he continued this work on marine environments. His focus became the integration of science and art in a manner, which fostered both an appreciation of the extraordinary beauty of the subject and an understanding of its diversity and complexity.

In 1999 he held successful solo exhibitions of his work in Sydney and Fremantle and has since held other successful exhibitions in France, USA and Australia. As a conservationist, Roger has supported ecological projects and research, he works closely with conservation organizations to help protect fishery resources and increase knowledge of marine life. In recent years Roger has continued this study of the marine environment with large scale underwater drawings and surveys of reef sites around the world. He has pursued scientific illustration with life size portraits of individual fish, intimate studies of their surface, form and function. He presently lives and works in Fremantle Western Australia with his partner Catherine and their three chlidren.

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Carlos Hiller Underwater Scenes

Carlos Hiller was born in Santa Fe, Argentina, 1972. From an early age he demonstrated a special interest in studying painting, music and biology. His hometown, 300 miles distant from the sea, is located in an area of plains rivers and a complex system of islands, which was Carlos´ playground.

But the Atlas was his reference book.
During adolescence he made unusual journeys to explore his own country.
When he was 17, he and two friends built a primitive raft on which they navigated one of the longest rivers in South America, the Parana, to reach the river mouth. The painting on the raft´s sail was one of his first large paintings. For Carlos this adventure represented a journey of discovery toward the sea, revealing his character as a free spirit and his relationship with nature.
Immediately after this trip he decided to move to the coast.
He chose to study Marine Biology in Puerto Madryn, in Argentinean Patagonia. In the sea, in contrast to his inland beginnings, he found a frontier towards something new and undiscovered. But in his restlessness he left his studies and in an act of reaction and searching, he turned towards extreme adventure and the arts.
He practiced mountain sports and then began several long journeys all along the coast of South America.

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London Zoo reveals ‘last chance to see’ corals

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has reveal what it says are the world’s ten most important types of coral amid fears that all of them will be extinct within 50 years

The ZSL says a combination of climate change, over fishing, careless tourism and pollution is behind the demise of vital reefs.

It has released the above film in an attempt to remind people of the beauty of coral reefs and the sea life that lives off them.

The ZSL’s ten most important coral species in the world are:

1. Elegance coral