Curious Trends


Marine life in design art

The sea has been a source of inspiration for artists and designer makers since time immemorial. Randomly selected examples from relatively recent decades include Salvador Dali’s surreal images and interpretations of the sea, the surreal underwater films of Jean Painleve, Hubert de Givenchy’s 1953 spring/summer fashion show themes of the sea and shells and Bill Woodrow’s 1981 design for an electric fire with fish. And now, with everything from piscine ceramics to piscatorial inspired knitting projects, it seems that all things aquatic are very much in fashion.

Damien Hirst has had an ongoing fascination with fish since his Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purposes of Understanding (1991). Hirst’s latest fishy forays are much the same, though now with even more fishes. The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, (2006), as shown by the White Cube gallery at this year’s Frieze art fair consists of three glass cabinets, each 84 x 72 inches, with various species of fish in formaldehyde solution.

This contemporary glass bowl with jumping fishes is reminiscent of classic Lalique style glassware.

The fish is depicted widely in Asian and Japanese art. Red and yellow fishes are seen here on a Japanese furoshiki wrap fabric, photographed at the Tent design fair in London – as were the origami fishes below.

Marine curiosities such as coral, shells and oceanic taxidermy are much sought after by designers of contemporary interiors.

The latest aquariums come in the form of a two storey fish home called the Archiquarium by Karl-Oskar Ankarberg (via Cool hunting).

Also from this source, Tokyo artist, Iori Tomita combines man made design with aquatic creatures to create ‘new world transparent specimens’ highlighting the complex compositions of marine life.

More evidence of fish in interior decoration comes in the form of these gently glowing glass goldfish-in-a-bag lights by murano glass designers, Barovier and Toso.

Mother of pearl inlaid home accessories and pearlised wall tiles are also becoming very popular.

Superblue’s giant knitting nancy installation looks as though it was inspired by lobster pots. This communally French knitted creation contains large inflatable balls to make an interconnected seating structure. The concept was designed in collaboration with sculptor Dan Preston and jewellery designer, Holly Packer and has been developed for public spaces, festivals and events – to connect people together.

John Galliano’s 2010 Christmas tree at Claridges is made of sparkling silver leaves, coral, sea horses, fish, anemones, starfish and jelly fish – all lit up and glinting like gem stones.

Algerian-born Paul Amar creates 1.3 metre high sculptures from shells picked up from beaches or acquired from specialist shops. These are painted in outrageously bright colours and consist of people, animals, flowers and decorative embellishment. Amar calls his crustacean creatures ‘yaouled’ (a colonial term for the ragged children of the underclass who lived and worked on the streets).

Pascal Desir has also created these curious shell masks.

Patrick Van Craeckenbergh’s works include La Coquille – a giant Nautilus shell baby carriage set on old coach wheels.

Geoffrey Luff and Christine Viennet make contemporary sea life inspired ceramics in the style of Bernard Palissy.

Finally, a flash back to Alexander McQueen’s extraordinary SS 2010 Plato’s Atlantis collection. His chilling vision for the future: “When Charles Darwin wrote The Origin Of The Species, no one could have known that the ice cap would melt, that the waters would rise and that life on earth would have to evolve in order to live beneath the sea once more or perish. We came from water and now, with the help of stem cell technology and cloning, we must go back to it to survive.”

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