Tate Liverpool
14 July – 23 September 2001

An exciting and relevant show for Tate Liverpool, At Sea reveals the universal lure of deep waters. For centuries, artists have used the sea to represent ideas of life and loss, threat and lure, transition, reflection and energy. The sea continues to intrigue artists working today. Bringing together a rich selection of works in all media which examine the sea from a contemporary and international perspective, the exhibition is divided into a number of solo and group displays, offering the opportunity to view significant bodies of work by each artist.

The sea as a site for contemplation has been developed in the work of many artists. Its surface, when unruffled by storms and waves, offers a pure and seemingly endless blank space upon which to project notions of abstraction, repetition and formal beauty. The exhibition opens with a selection of works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Vija Celmins, amongst others, that examine the distillation of the sea into the languages of paint, drawing, film or photography.

The second room examines the theme of the bather. This subject, a popular one in the history of twentieth-century art, is here explored from a contemporary perspective. For example, a selection of Rineke Dijkstra’s striking and unnerving photographs of adolescents on deserted beaches shown alongside Martin Parr’s West Bay series of photographs of holiday makers on the English south coast. This offers a loud contrast, full of piercing colour and tender commentary.

This perspective of the sea, that is, as a surface to be observed from land, contrasts strongly with the sense of the sea’s overwhelming force inherent in the blackboard drawings by Tacita Dean. Here, tragic stories of thwarted voyages are hauntingly evoked. A similar approach is taken by James Peel, who has made a permanent light installation for the *New Brighton lighthouse. In Morse code, the light projects the names of those lost on board the American emigrant ship the Ocean Monarch, which sailed from Liverpool in 1848. A web link to the piece plus supporting work will be exhibited.

Following on from this, At Sea examines the myths and stories which surround the sea. Nymphs, mermaids and desert islands alike have proved rich inspiration for a number of artists. Mariele Neudecker’s work details tiny shipwrecks and romantic seascapes. Likewise, Mat Collishaw depicts magical worlds of mermaids proving that the impact of the sea channels far below the surface.

Tate Liverpool’s Education team are collaborating with the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool, on a project with local elderly people. Responding to the respective collections, participants will produce a sound collage that can be heard in the Information Room within the exhibition space.

At Sea is on show at Tate Liverpool from 14 July to 23 September 2001. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5:50pm, closed Monday (except Bank Holiday Mondays). For further information, please telephone 0151 702 7402 or visit our website at www.tate.org.uk/liverpool/.

*New Brighton, Wirral, Merseyside

List of Artists:
Sue Arrowsmith, Vija Clemins, Mat Collishaw, Gary Coyle, Dorothy Cross, Tacita Dean, Rineke Dijkstra, Tracey Emin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rodney Graham, Garry Fabian Miller, Zebedee Jones, Tania Kovats, Clare Langan, Richard Long, Mariele Neudecker, Martin Parr, James Peel, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Chris Welsby