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Jason deCaires Taylor sculptor and marine conservationist from Faversham creates underwater museums

Submerged deep beneath the surface, hundreds of stunning sculptures stand on the seabed across the world... Katie Davis reports

For more than 12 years, acclaimed sculptor and marine conservationist Jason deCaires Taylor has built a reputation for creating striking "underwater museums".

And amazingly, the magic is happening right on our doorstop in Faversham.

The Silent Evolution. Picture: Jason deCaires Taylor
The Silent Evolution. Picture: Jason deCaires Taylor

Behind a black door in Standard Quay, the 44-year-old and his team are working hard on several projects.

Recently, a photo of figures in Standard Quay sparked fascination on social media, with many questioning their purpose and one quipping "Faversham's answer to the Terracotta Army".

But these life-like figures won’t be staying in town, as they prepare to head half way across the globe.

“Those are for a big project I am doing in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef,” Jason said.

“I was out there a few weeks ago doing some of the research for it, looking at sites - I’ve just got quite a big commission out there to do it.

“We are building a big underwater greenhouse, like a big botanical garden, and loads of the figures are actually working inside it.

Artist Jason deCaires Taylor surrounded by statues for ‘The Silent Evolution’ installation (inset)
Artist Jason deCaires Taylor surrounded by statues for ‘The Silent Evolution’ installation (inset)

“It features a horticultural space, and it’s going to have a series of children inside it and they’re all planting corals and watering different types of marine life.

"It’s kind of tongue and cheek.

“The project in Australia is very exciting for me as it’s the first time this kind of work has been done in the southern hemisphere.

“It’s obviously not just myself working on projects, I have a few people helping me.

"People have a very sort of romantic notion that I sit in front of a piece of marble with a chisel, but it’s not quite like that - the process is a bit more industrial.”

Jason, who lives in Faversham with his wife and two children, says raising awareness about environmental issues is at the forefront of the work he does.

Some of the sculptor's work. Picture: Jason deCaires Taylor (11594311)
Some of the sculptor's work. Picture: Jason deCaires Taylor (11594311)

“Working on the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the most well-known, prestigious places, is something that’s never been done before there, so it really is quite exciting,” he added.

“Just the variety of marine life there is colossal; it is diverse and has some of the richest eco-systems in the world.

"I’m very concerned about what’s happening to the environment around the world, so I’m very keen on doing sculptures that highlight that or help raise awareness about destruction of some of our ecosystems.”

Created using pH neutral materials, the models become a part of the underwater ecosystems, seeing natural growth and colonisation.

Jason’s first underwater sculpture park - and the world’s - was unveiled back in 2006 off the west coast of Grenada in the West Indies.

Having graduated from the London Institute of Arts in 1998 with a BA Honours in sculpture, Jason was working as a scuba diving instructor when he decided to present the concept to the government and fund the project himself by selling his house in Canterbury.

Picture: Jason deCaires Taylor (11292208)
Picture: Jason deCaires Taylor (11292208)

More than a decade on, his works stand all over the world - including in the Atlantic Ocean off Lanzarote, in the Bahamas, and even in the River Stour in Canterbury.

The submerged sculptures have been subject to remarkable change.

“Many of them are statements - political statements, social statements - some of them directly highlight interactions with the natural world and make us ask questions about that,” he said.

“Just the way they transform, they are very much designed to be organic beings in the hope they remind us that we are actually natural as well.

"We tend to forget, we think as everything is man-made and artificial. We seem to have lost a little bit of that connection.

“I’ve had pieces that have been underwater now for 12 years and they’re quite changed but you can still very much see there’s a human form beneath it.

Reclamation. Picture: Jason deCaires Taylor
Reclamation. Picture: Jason deCaires Taylor

“They are designed with specialist materials, they are pH neutral; they don’t contaminate - they are designed to last for hundreds and hundreds of years. But obviously they get colonised.

"They don’t decay as such, but they actually increase in surface area.

"They start to get calcareous additions and all different types of shells and organisms start to inhabit them. They do change remarkably.”

With his workshop in Standard Quay providing limited space, Jason is appealing to find a larger space in Faversham.

He can be contacted viainfo@underwatersculpture.com

To find out more about Jason and his work, go to www.underwatersculpture.com

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