‘Under The Surface’

At a glance:

Gannet (Morus bassanus) in confetti glass

First edition GXPa.01: June 2018

76 pieces (one painted)

Size approx. 68 x 80 cm

Hanging size (wall) approx. 60 x 83 cm

 Size on stand: 75 (h) x 85 (w) x 15 (d) cm

10 editions: 10 available

Commission: £poa (+ p&p)

Stand commission: £75 (+ p&p)

With thanks to www.5gyres.org and www.thesmogofthesea.com

In 2018 I made the first edition of the diving Gannet – a spectacular seabird I see regularly in small numbers off the North Wales coast.

Although I was  very pleased with the original, there was something missing. A large and increasing part of the reality of seabird ecology is concerned with the consequences of ocean plastics, that are everywhere we look for them; floating and washing up on beaches; fragmenting and collecting in the five great ocean gyres; sinking to the seabeds.  In 2017, deliberations  of the United Nations Environment Assembly included the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration, noting that annually “we dump [from] 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic in oceans”. Plastics are amazing, space-age materials that don’t degrade; made from mostly non-renewable fossil resources. With them we create miracles; medical miracles, industrial miracles, miracles of food transport, storage and presentation. But you and I don’t see them as miracles when we buy them so cheaply, tear them open and discard them – anywhere, everywhere.

Gannets incorporate plastics into their nests, where adults and chicks  can tangle and hang ,or be trapped and starve. They tangle and drown at sea, where we only see the small proportion washing back to our littered beaches. But it’s easy to forget that plastics break up, not down: more than 70% of seabirds examined in 2017 contained ingested plastics.

This confetti glass looks just like the ‘microplastic soup’ we are serving up to our seabirds and their prey, for every meal, every day of their lives. Think about what that indigestible load does, what chemicals it carries, what vital space it takes up. This is no longer a post-mortem PR image  of albatross chicks on a distant island. It’s here, now. In the seas  around us. This Gannet is just a little translucent, a little vulnerable. We can see under his brilliant plumage, past the acrobatics and his hunter’s laser-focus ; see as the marine ornithologist sees him. Look with me, look beyond the lines of grace and power, and see what’s  ‘Under The Surface’…