Exhibition: 16 November 2019 – 23 February 2020
Ferens Art Gallery, Queen Victoria Square, Hull HU1 3RA
In collaboration with Invisible Dust and Ferens Art Gallery, visual artist and filmmaker Estabrak presents Sea; the Remains Between, the latest in the artist’s award-winning series of underwater photographs.
Estabrak’s intriguing photographs feature natural and human-made bodies of water in East Yorkshire. People from diverse communities in Hull are portrayed submerged in water, having braved the elements to participate in the artwork.
The installation of new media and photographic work is being exhibited in the Ferens Centre Court, forming a contemporary counterpart to Hull’s rich collection of historic marine paintings displayed in the gallery above.
This new body of work is inspired by the artist’s long term project ‘World Under Water’ which includes the award-winning photographic series ‘Omanis Under Water’ and ‘Brazilians Under Water’.
Estabrak said: “Photographing individuals through this lens not only visualises environmental impacts on our bodies, but also helps represent our own impacts on our environments and each other.
“It also highlights social traditions and behaviours that usually go unnoticed, and realities people may not openly talk about in public.”
Participants are photographed individually or in groups, sometimes accompanied by objects or natural forms. Their heads remain above water, outside the frame, meaning that their identity is not revealed. The mysterious presence of their bodies immersed in the aquatic realm is at once poetic and haunting, poignant, balletic and unsettling. In denying easy access to identifying the people portrayed, Estabrak forces us to look more closely at who and what is represented in the pictures. In doing so, she asks us “to confront and reflect on important issues sometimes silenced on land”. In particular she highlights “the social, political and environmental impact of human activity in a region defined by its industrial and maritime past, oceanic trade routes and complex ties to transmigration and the British Slave trade”.
During her time exploring regional waterways in the East Riding in search of suitable locations, Estabrak connected with people and places, taking on board their stories as a central part of the work. The exhibition highlights the impact of humans on our waters and is informed by current research into contamination caused by pharmaceuticals, plastics and other toxic chemicals, led by Jeanette Rotchell, Professor of Aquatic Toxicology at the University of Hull.
Estabrak continued: “In our current global environment, being able to produce an informed body of work which highlights the everyday through crossing the borders of the arts, sciences, humanities and politics, has been a highlight of this project. Just like every tiny drop of water in our vast but shared ocean, we too need each other in order to exist.
“Without doubt, in our individual and collective choices we impact one another socially, physically and medically – affecting our waters through our own human choices. However water is a necessity for our survival. So is our humanity. At a time of so much division, where, I wonder, are our collective priorities?”
Sea; the Remains Between was commissioned by Invisible Dust in partnership with the Ferens Art Gallery for Surroundings, a three-year project focusing on environmental themes, produced by the Humber Museums Partnership in partnership with Invisible Dust. It is funded by Arts Council England through Ambition for Excellence, and the Wellcome Trust’s Sustaining Excellence.
Kirsten Simister, curator of art at Ferens Art Gallery, said: “I’m delighted the Ferens is exhibiting this important new commission by Estabrak. Her thought-provoking underwater photographs have been made in many parts of the world but this exciting project, in partnership with Invisible Dust, features local people and places.
“The work includes the stories of people whose voices are not always heard, using art as a way to explore wider social and environmental concerns.”
Estabrak is a multi-disciplinary visual artist based in London. Amongst other accolades, her prize-winning series ‘Omanis Under Water’ has been exhibited at The Royal Academy of the Arts Summer Exhibition in 2016. She features in the 2018 BBC podcast ‘Pursuit of Beauty: Art Beneath the Waves’ which identifies her as one of the ‘five incredible underwater artists’ working today.
[Michael Berriman – Hull City Council]