Review: “Ship to Shore: Art and the Lure of the Sea”

From cover to cover I traveled from shore to shore, visiting visions of artists. “Ship to Shore: Art and the Lure of the Sea” is a dreamy book, that kept me sailing from one interview to the other, back and forth.

It was published at the end of last year, and is born out of an exhibition with the same title. The exhibition was held in John Hansard Gallery and SeaCity Museum in Southampton, England, in 2014, in the port city out of which Titanic steamed on her fateful voyage to a distant shore more than hundred years ago.

“Ship to Shore” is a monograph, a book of conversations with selected international artists whose work is connected to the sea. In sixteen intimate interviews with curator and book’s editor Jean Wainwright artists reveal how their works came to be and what the lure of the sea means to them. “The sea is a site of metaphor and romance, of fear and joy; it is there to be sailed conquered, battled against and swum in. It is a repository of dreams,” Wainwright writes in a framing historical essay in the introduction.

Pockets are full of little gems now just like coming home from the beach with pebbles and shells in my jacket. Some insights are inspiring, some rather painful reminders.

The exhibition “Ship to Shore” in John Hansard Gallery was the first place in Britain that showcased Isaac Julien’s film “Western Union Series”. Although the artwork was made already in 2007, no one was willing to fill the room with its message before. It portrays the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe. Southern Italian island of Lampedusa, closest point to reach Europe from Africa, has become a crossroad of parallel universes: refugees, dead or alive, and holidaymakers, both reaching the shores of this beautiful island.

Artists have Prospero’s fingers to grasp the ungraspable sea. Irish artist Dorothy Cross creates storm in a teacup; late American artist Chris Burden sends a self-navigating ghost ship in a North Sea storm; British artist Simon Patterson draws mythical maps filled with Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s quotes and legends; and British artist Yinka Shonibare MBE puts Nelson’s ship in a bottle.

True treasures of this book are the stories artists tell. Including a deeply personal story how Tracey Emin’s neon “She Lay down Deep Beneath The Sea” is connected to death of her father and to olive trees, and the sea. And the stories artists tell about their own relationship with the sea.

Isaac Julien cannot swim. Tracey Emin loves to swim in different water and to feel and understand the difference. Dorothy Cross lives on the West Coast of Ireland, and she can see the Atlantic Ocean through her window. “Sometimes the sea is aquamarine turquoise, and when you dive through it, it’s like diving through glass.” American photographer Thomas Joshua Cooper is never bored by the sea and he compares the circulatory system of the blood moving through the body with the tidal movement of the sea. “There’s something remarkably human about the need to be near this kind of liquid environment,” he says.

We are reminded on many different levels to undo what writer Philip Hoare calls “our paradoxical removal from the sea” in his essay “The Dark and Deep Blue Ocean”, written for this book. Born in Southampton, Hoare comes out of his depths in nocturnal swims. “Being in water .. removes you from language, so it’s a wordless place,” says Dorothy Cross. Yet the words and artworks can serve us to get back there.

“Ship to Shore: Art and the Lure of the Sea”, Jean Wainwright, John Hansard Gallery, 2018. Interviewed artists: Claire Kerr, Dorothy Cross, Tacita Dean, Chris Burden, Simon Patterson, Steffi Klenz, Catherine Yass, Tracey Emin, Isaac Julien, Zineb Sedira, Humphrey Ocean, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Langlands & Bell, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Mark Power, Susan Hiller.

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No vāka līdz vākam ceļoju no viena iztēles krasta uz nākamo. “Ship to Shore: Art and the Lure of the Sea” ir pasakaina grāmata, izdota pērnā gada beigās, bet tās sākums meklējams 2014. gada izstādē ar tādu pašu nosaukumu, kas tika sarīkota Anglijas ostas pilsētas Southemptonas John Hansard galerijā un SeaCity muzejā.

“Ship to Shore” ir monogrāfija, sarunas ar starptautiski atzītiem māksliniekiem, kuru darbi saistīti ar jūru. 16 intervijās ar kuratori un grāmatas redaktori Džīnu Veinvraitu mākslinieki atklāj, kā darbi radušies un ar ko jūra viņus valdzina.

Sarunu atziņas ir gan iedvesmojošas, gan sāpīgas. Minētā izstāde John Hansard galerijā bija pirmā vieta Lielbritānijā, kas izrādīja britu mākslinieka Izaka Džūljena filmu “Western Union Series”. Lai arī darbs tapis jau 2007. gadā, iepriekš neviena telpa negribēja to rādīt. Filma ir par bēgļu krīzi Itālijas Lampedūzas salā, kas ir Āfrikai tuvākā Eiropas vieta. Salas krastus sasniedz gan laimīgi atpūtnieki, gan izmisuši bēgļi, ja vispār sasniedz.

Mākslinieki ar burvju pirkstiem spēj aptvert nevaldāmo jūru. Īru māksliniece Dorotija Krosa saceļ vētru tējaskrūzē; amerikāņu mākslinieks, nelaiķis Kriss Bērdens sūta spoku kuģi bez apkalpes vētrā; brits Saimons Patersons zīmē mītiskas kartes, kuru norādes ved pa leģendārā Žaka Kusto dzīvi, bet Yinka Shonibare MBE pudelē iebāž Nelsona kuģi.

Grāmatas lielākā vērtība ir mākslinieku stāsti. Tostarp personiskais Treisijas Eminas stāsts par to, kā radās viņas neons “She Lay down Deep Beneath The Sea” un kā tas saistīts ar viņas tēva nāvi, ar olīvkokiem un jūru. Tāpat arī stāsti par katra attiecībām ar ūdeni. Izaks Džuljens neprot peldēt. Treisija Emina mīl peldēt dažādos ūdeņos un just, kā tie atšķiras. Vairāki mākslinieki reiz slīkuši. Amerikāņu fotogrāfam Tomasam Džošua Kūperam pie jūras nekad nav garlaicīgi, un cilvēka asinsriti viņš pielīdzina jūras plūdmaiņām. Tālab cilvēkam esot iekšēja nepieciešamība būt pie ūdens.

Rakstnieks Filips Hors grāmatas esejā raksta, ka esam paradoksāli atdalījušies no jūras. Viņš pats, dzīvodams Southemptonā, ik nakti dodas peldēt. “Būt ūdenī nozīmē būt brīvam no valodas,” saka Dorotija Krosa. Tomēr, šķiet, tieši vārdi un mākslas darbi var mūs dabūt tur atpakaļ.

“Ship to Shore: Art and the Lure of the Sea”, Jean Wainwright, John Hansard Gallery, 2018. Intervētie mākslinieki: Claire Kerr, Dorothy Cross, Tacita Dean, Chris Burden, Simon Patterson, Steffi Klenz, Catherine Yass, Tracey Emin, Isaac Julien, Zineb Sedira, Humphrey Ocean, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Langlands & Bell, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Mark Power, Susan Hiller.