You may not have noticed it yet, but Highfield campus is home to one of the UK’s leading public galleries of temporary visual art, the John Hansard Gallery. The current exhibit ‘That Oceanic Feeling’ by British artist Rona Lee explores our relationship with the deep sea, her work was developed at the NOC.
Enter into a room surrounded on four sides by images of people imagining the ocean. Three stand with eyes shut tight, you may think they could be imagining anything, but look again and see the relaxation, our natural association with the mysterious mass of water. Beside sit chrome plated handfuls of silt brought up for 4000m below the surface.
Carrying on through the exhibition the art is accompanied by music from a vinyl, generated from geo-physical profile of the underwater Mid Atlantic Ridge. It is surprisingly melodic thanks to Tim Olden and really adds to the atmosphere. Rona quotes a fact I’ve often heard, ‘we know less about the deep ocean than we do about the moon’, this is evident throughout, the music adds the same eerie effect as a space movie, the same mystery and thirst for knowledge.
‘Sea / Draw (Ten Atlantic Days)’ Hangs on the western wall, at first glance I believed it to be ten blank canvases – exactly how I would imagine ten days at sea, but get closer and take a proper look, they are in fact ten reliefs cast from drawings created by hanging a pen on board the research ship. Studying them in order the viewer is drawn in to the story, giving the random scribbles a much greater meaning.
Three videos, which make up about half an hour, loop in the remainder of the gallery. To me they express the vastness, the remoteness, the opportunity, they emphasize the harshness with which it can take or give life.
The exhibition subtly drew me in, and it was only when I exited out into campus, feet firmly on solid ground, that I realized just how engrossed I had become.
Rona’s exhibition remains in Southampton until 13th October and she will be giving an artist’s talk tonight (Thursday 27th) at 6:30. The John Hansard Gallery opens Tue-Fri 10-5 and Sat 10-4. Admission is free!!!