Jason deCaires Taylor, the artist who specialises in underwater installations, has just unveiled his latest piece: the Sculpture Coralarium in the centre of the largest coral lagoon in the Maldives island of Fairmont Sirru Fen Fushi.
The work is a semi-submerged "tidal gallery", in which visitors can snorkel along a 100m-long line of underwater poplar trees and planted coral to an underwater staircase that leads up to a 6m-tall box made from stainless steel. From there, visitors can walk along a dry viewing platform.
The environmental target is global warming and rising sea levels
The box contains 14 sculptures below and above the water, or half-way between. Some of the figures have roots, intended to symbolise the dependence of humans on the natural environment. The sculptures are made from Jesmonite, a composite material made from gypsum and acrylic resin.
The gallery is intended for visitors equipped with snorkels
As with many of deCaires Taylor’s pieces, the aim is to create an effect that combines an appreciation of the marine world with environmental warnings, social criticism and a kind of surreal existentialism.
In this case, the environmental point is made by a number of submerged children, looking up towards the surface of the sea and the existentialism comes from the figures standing on top of the gallery, scanning the horizon for signs of a rescue mission (perhaps).
The five-month installation period was carried out by crane and frogperson
The installation, which took five months to carry out, includes 180 tonnes of material, including 66 laser-cut stainless steel panels.
Previous installations by deCaires Taylor include temporary installation along the banks of the Thames in London, an underwater sculpture park in Lanzarote and another off the Gili Islands to the east of Bali in Indonesia (see further reading for photos of these projects).
The panels are cut with intricate coral patterns to allow storms to pass through
Top image: The gallery is topped by Jesmonite sculptures to create the appearance of a "mirage on the horizon" (All photos courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor)