A lot of my work is to do with things I find onshore or scuba diving, or the natural world a lot and then try to reconfigure it.
The first work I ever made with the skin of a shark was from a porbeagle that I got from a fishmonger in Ireland when it was still allowed to be sold for food. What I did with that was gilded the interior of the skin with pure gold, making precious something that’s considered ugly or discardable.Very often my work is about two things coming together. There’s something chemical in gold and there’s something post-nature, obviously, in the shark, but there’s still the energy of the imagined notion of the shark which is connected to us in terms of animal but removed from us in terms of territory and ocean.
People do tend to fear skin and bone because it maybe possibly mirrors their own mortality and our own decay. Something lasting forever is a kind of ludicrous notion really.
This is the sad kind of residue of a very beautiful animal which I cast, actually, in bronze and made a piece called Everest Shark. I cast an exact replica of Mount Everest and put it on where the dorsal fin should be. It’s a piece about time, actually. 100 million years ago it evolved to the form it’s in now and has not needed to evolve since. Mount Everest only rose to its pinnacle 60 million years ago, so there’s this beautiful difference in time, 40 million years, where the pinnacle of our planet, which we all aspire to climb, is so much younger than the shark.
A long time I was working with fingers, creating stalactites out of wax fingers that were cast in bronze. These are roots from brambles in the garden, and what we’re going to do is create a bolt of lightning in this tiny hole in Lismore from the ceiling which will have five fingers that then eventually touch the ground and it will be cast in silver.
This was a kid who lived down the road that had very beautiful, elegant fingers and I just make a mould and then we cast them in wax.
Behind this then, I should show you this one, is a little model of the Ghost Ship that I did many years ago in Dublin Bay where we painted an old light ship with phosphorous paint and it glowed for three weeks in the middle of Dublin Bay.
People say, does this landscape feed me, does it deliver material every day? Up to now it has but maybe I’ll never do anything with another shark skin again. What’s next, where can you get other natural material that will trigger something in a new way?