‘See Life’ at SWELL 2015

‘See Life’ by John Cox at Swell Sculpture Festival 2015. The sculpture of a breaching whale incorporates a high tech lighting display and is covered in relief images of people, birds, and a variety of sea creatures for viewers to find. It’s proven to be a firm favourite amongst visitors – day and night.

I’ve had the concept for this sculpture for about two years and it’s taken me that long to figure out how to actually achieve it. There were many factors to consider, like how to get the relief sculptures into the actual whale body itself, how many pieces it had to be split into to allow us to mould it, cast, and paint it, how to get the steel work inside and still be able to put the lights in. So it’s been a really interesting project to work out all the scheduling for each of the different processes involved. The incorporation of a high tech programmable lighting system inside the whale adds yet another dimension to the overall sculpture.

When I was planning what relief images to use I wanted to also include things that take place above the water line. As soon as I came to this decision I immediately saw how I could split the whales body into two sections with each part showing a completely different perspective on how we relate to the ocean.

The top section illustrates the shoreline, which is the interface between the land and the ocean. The lower section shows marine life and the human interaction that takes place with it below the water line. I wanted the lightshow to represent the beauty, tranquillity and colour of life underwater. It was equally important to show what it would look like should this natural beauty be diminished, but I also didn’t want to beat the audience over the head with a strong negative message so the majority of the lightshow highlights what we still have in our oceans and how important it is for us to protect it.

The Great Barrier Reef and marine habitat issues have been in the media quite a lot this year especially regarding pollution and how people are choosing ways to protest it. I hope that by inviting viewers to engage with the work, and to look a little deeper at everything within it, it will add to a continuing discussion about our oceans, waterways, and marine life.

I also want viewers to realise that each of us has a voice that we can use to influence how our oceans can be protected.

You can view the Making of ‘See Life’ in our Video Studio, click HERE