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Art Beneath the Waves

Artist Emma Critchley meets dancers, sculptors and painters who are drawn beneath the sea to create underwater art, hearing the joys and challenges of using the ocean as a canvas.

Artist Emma Critchley meets filmmakers, photographers, sculptors and painters who are drawn beneath the sea to create underwater art.

Julie Gautier performs a graceful, lyrical ballet on the floor of the deepest pool in the world. Without a tank of air or mask, she dances magically through crystal-clear waters across a sunken stage.

In the azure waters of the world, sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor uses the seabed as his canvas. He has installed hundreds of life-sized, concrete people on the sea floor. Fish weave through his couple playing on sea-saw, tourists taking photographs or migrants huddling in a raft. As Jason works towards the opening of his first cold water installation, Emma asks what draws him to the sea, the meaning of his work and how audiences can engage with underwater art.

She explores the unpredictability of working with the sea, hearing stories of storms, seasickness and near drowning.

Suzi Winstanley is petrified of the deep, but her passion for documenting wildlife has taken her to the remotest and coldest places in the world. With fellow artist Olly Williams, they collaborate to paint, lightning-fast, their experience of encountering white shark and leopard sea.

Emma braves the wintery British waters to talk concentration, boundaries and time with artist Peter Matthews who immerses himself in the ocean for hours, sometimes days, floating with his drawing board and paper.

Sunlight dances on the twisting fabrics of headless bodies in photographer Estabrak’s pictures. For her, working in Oman, underwater is the only safe space to tell stories.

For some the pull of the sea is political, for others environmental, but all the artists find extraordinary freedom in this huge untapped underwater world.

Producer: Sarah Bowen

Available now

28 minutes

On radio

Sun 30 Dec 2018 13:30

Broadcasts