Jason deCaires Taylor
Jason deCaires Taylor (born 12 August 1974 in Dover, Kent county, United Kingdom) is a British sculptor and creator of the world’s first underwater sculpture park - the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park  - and underwater museum. He is best known for installing site-specific underwater sculptures which develop into artificial coral reefs integrating his skills as a sculptor, marine conservationist, underwater photographer and scuba diving instructor. His works in Grenada have been listed among the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic. His most ambitious projects to date are the creation of the world's largest underwater sculpture museum, MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), situated off the coast between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and Ocean Atlas (2014), a 5-metre tall, 60-ton sculpture off the Bahamas. Taylor is currently based on the island of Lanzarote, Spain, working on a major new underwater museum for the Atlantic Ocean.
The only son of an English father and Guyanese mother, he was educated in Kent, South East England, with further studies at Camberwell College of Arts Institute of London, where he graduated in 1998 with a B.A Honours degree in Sculpture and Ceramics. Scuba diving from the age of 18, he became a fully qualified scuba instructor in 2002.
Taylor's early work includes Vicissitudes, Grace Reef, The Lost Correspondent and The Unstill Life. All are located in the world´s first public underwater sculpture park in the Caribbean Sea in Molinere Bay, Grenada, West Indies, and situated in a section of coastline that was badly damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Taylor’s works create haunting, enigmatic underwater scenes, often depicting the mundaneness of life on dry land transported into an alchemic new environment. Instead of the entropic process typically associated with the ocean's corrosive tendencies, Taylor's pieces encourage organisms to grow and affect the surfaces of his creation. They are often commentaries on humanity’s relationship with the natural world and the need for conservation, decay and rebirth. The majority of his sculptures are based on living people who are life cast and whose phenotypical qualities alter over time as they slowly evolve from inert concrete to living artificial reefs. Taylor considers that he is "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."
In 2009 Taylor relocated his practice to Mexico where he achieved another milestone: the creation of the world’s first underwater museum. MUSA, the Museo Subacuático de Arte (The Underwater Museum of Art), holds more than 485 of Taylor’s submerged sculptures and 30 land-based pieces. It is located off the coast of Cancun and the western coast of Isla Mujeres. The project was supported and commissioned in 2008 by CONANP, National Commission of Mexican Protected Natural Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas) and The Cancun Nautical Association , officially opening in November 2010.
Works in the museum include individual installations implanted with live coral cuttings rescued from areas of damaged reef. Hombre en llamas (Man on Fire), cast from a local fisherman, stands towards the current with fragments of implanted fire coral in his head and torso,. La Jardinera (The Gardener) is a girl lying on a patio nurturing a variety of potted corals. Other works include El colecionista de los sueños (The Dream Collector), a man archiving messages found inside bottles that have been brought together by the oceans’ currents
La Evolución Silenciosa (The Silent Evolution)is the largest underwater collection of art. It was installed in MUSA in November 2010 and consists of 450 life-size cement people standing side by side on a barren patch of sand. The sculptures evoke both contemporary and historical narratives, forming building blocks which develop into a complex artificial reef for aquatic life to inhabit<ref. While the appearance of the collection underwater is of a crowd of people, from a distance it take the shape of an eye. The collection occupies over 420 square metres of ocean floor; the location was chosen to redirect visitors away from nearby natural reefs, providing these with the opportunity to regenerate.
MUSA is referenced as one of the largest and most ambitious projects underwater in the world.
By the end of 2013, Taylor had placed nearly 700 sculptures around the globe. Works completed in 2014 include Ocean Atlas, located in the Bahamas, the largest single underwater sculpture in the world at 5 metres tall and weighing 60 tons.
Taylor is currently based in Lanzarote, Spain, where he is working on a major new underwater museum for the Atlantic ocean.
In 2015 Taylor installed his first London commission, The Rising Tide. The installation, which sat less than a mile from the Houses of Parliament, consisted of four life-size shire horses, standing as a symbol of the origins of industrialisation but also as a warning for the bleak future it is creating for the world by their representation of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
While the bodies of the figures and horses are moulded from real life, each of the horses’ heads has been replaced by the “horse head” of an oil-well pump – a political comment on the impact of fossil fuels on our planet. For Taylor, the position of the sculpture is particularly opportune. “I quite like the idea that the piece sits in the eye line of the place where many politicians and so many people who are involved in climate change all work and make these damaging deals and policies, yet who are in this state of mad denial,” he said. The middle-aged suited figures that sit on top of two of the horses, looking defiantly into the distance, are also a direct reference to the politicians and businessman who Taylor believes are allowing climate change to continue under their watch.
Taylor added: “The suited figures are ambivalent to their situation – I wanted to create this striking image of a politician in front of the Houses of Parliament, ignoring the world as the water rises around him. And they are sitting on horses that are grazing, taking as much as they can from the ground.”
Taylor has gained worldwide recognition as one of the first artists to integrate contemporary art with the conservation of marine life. These underwater artificial coral reefs installations divert tourists away from natural coral reefs that are already suffering effects from marine pollution, global warming, hurricane damage and overfishing, thus providing the opportunity for the natural reefs’ rehabilitation.
Working alongside marine biologists, Taylor uses resilient, stable and environmentally responsive materials. He integrates a coral promoting neutral pH cement and propagates damaged coral fragments found in the ocean into preset keys in his figures. The structures also incorporate habitat spaces for marine life that will promote an increase in biomass of local ecosystems.
The sculptures are positioned in precise locations on the sea bed to avoid contact from strong currents and tidal patterns and are installed at the correct time for coral spawning to maximize their potential influence to the oceanic ecosystem.
Art writer, Dr David De Russo, writes that "the sculptures are a living evolutionary exhibition as nature colonizes, and the sea and tidal movement deform their appearance developing a platform which will promote the re-generation of marine life. They are a means of conveying hope and environmental awareness"
By encompassing bio-restorative and culturally educational properties Taylors work has been categorised as part of the eco-art movement. In 2010, his worked featured in the campaign by Greenpeace for awareness of Global Warming ahead of the 2010 United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun.
2011: The Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park was described as one of the “Wonders of the World – Earth’s Most Awesome Places” in a special edition of National Geographic Magazine published in 2011
2010: MUSA (Mexico) was voted by Forbes corporation as one of the world’s most unique places to visit.
2014: Taylor was awarded the Foreign Policy Global Thinker award.
2015: Taylor was honoured with the “Scroll” of the Friends of the Anclas Phillipe Cousteau Museum, an award given annually on the anniversary of the death of Phillipe Cousteau in recognition of his magnificent contribution to the field of underwater art.
Taylor’s website includes images of many of his works. The most notable include:
- 2015 The Rising Tide, Thames Foreshore, London, United Kingdom
- 2014 Ocean Atlas. New Providence in Nassau, Bahamas
- 2013 No turning back. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2013 Self-immolation. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2013 Resurrection. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2013 Vein Man. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2012 Urban Reef. Isla Mujeres, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2012 Reclamation. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2012 The Listener. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2012 The Last Supper. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2011 The Holy Man. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2011 Time Bomb. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2011 The Musician. Musha Cay, Copperfield Bay, Bahamas
- 2011 The Anthropocene. Isla Mujeres, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2011 The Promise. Isla Mujeres, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2011 Ineria. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2011 Void. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2011 Inheritance. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2011 The Silent Evolution. (450 sculptures) Isla Mujeres, Museo Subacuático de Arte.
- Cancun, Mexico
- 2009 The Gardener of Hope. Punta Nizuc, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2009 Dream Collector. Isla Mujeres, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2009 Man on Fire. Isla Mujeres, Museo Subacuático de Arte. Cancun, Mexico
- 2009 Inverted Solitude. Chepstow national diving centre, UK
- 2008 Alluvia. The Stour River, Canterbury, Kent, UK.
- 2008 The Un-Still Life II. Public stone sculpture, Palini, Crete, Greece.
- 2007 Vicissitudes. Moliniere underwater sculpture park, Grenada
- 2007 The Fall from Grace. Moliniere underwater sculpture park, Grenada
- 2007 The Un-Still Life. Moliniere underwater sculpture park, Grenada
- 2006 Grace Reef. Moliniere underwater sculpture park, Grenada
- 2006 Sienna. Moliniere underwater sculpture park, Grenada
- 2006 The Lost Correspondent. Moliniere underwater sculpture park, Grenada
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