On Reflection: 'Now Wakes the Sea' at Glucksman Gallery - Cork
Recently I visited an exhibition at the Glucksman Gallery, in the beautiful grounds of University College Cork. It was called Now Wakes the Sea. Irish and international visual artists had taken on the sea as a theme in their work. Striking, for me, was the highly charged romantic nature of almost all of the work on show, except for the piece by Tacita Dean.
Editor's note: A film about Donald Crowhurst's voyage, 'The Mercy' starring Academy Award winner Colin Firth, is due out in cinemas in early 2018.
My father worked for the most part of his life as a marine radio officer. He never romanticised about being at sea, or, at least I never remember him doing so. On the contrary, he was acutely aware of the dangers. The gigantic Greek oil tankers of the 60's were his home and workplace for three months or more at a stretch.
Tacita Dean's photographic triptych refers to the story of Donald Crowhurst, an Englishman who took part in a competition during the 1960s to sail around the world non-stop single-handedly. His journey seemed to be doomed from the start; he had no serious sea-going experience, rather he was a conman who hoped to gain fame and the fortune needed to save his electronics business by pretending a global circumnavigation – he rested up off South America while the other contestants ploughed on, re-joining the race on its way back. He never returned to dry land, going overboard when it looked as though his fraud might be exposed.
The three photographs are postcard size – one black and white, two in colour. Reading from left to right, we first see a close-up of a lighthouse.
Next is a photograph of the whole of a lighthouse and the surrounding sea. The third photograph is of Donald Crowhurst on his boat - the boat he supposedly will sail around the world in. He looks somewhat pensive, somewhat undecided about the whole idea of taking to the sea. He looks down into the water – should he not be looking up to see the signalling lights of the lighthouse or checking the sails? Who knows what is going through his mind? His body was never recovered, consigned to the mysteries of the deep.
Tacita Dean's piece is called 'Berwick Lighthouse; Greetings from Teignmouth, the Devon resort Donald Crowhurst embarked from on from on his around the world yacht race' (see image below).
Now Wakes the Sea runs until 5 November.