Public art, light art and site specific art interventions come together in this work commissioned by the Australian National Maritime Museum to memorialize the centenary of the loss of a WW1 submarine with all crew. The Royal Australian Navy’s AE1 submarine remains, at the date of this centenary, never recovered.
“……..the ocean bed their tomb” is a public artwork which changes in appearance from day to night and in response to changing cloud and daylight conditions. The title of the work references a line from the poem “Submarine AE1” by Anne Almer.
A burial at sea is not uncommonly accompanied by a floating wreath of flowers. In September 1914 , the early months of WW1 it is unlikely that the luxury of a floral wreath would have been available. The concept for this artwork imagines an alternative, equally beautiful wreath constructed of floating twigs, branches and vegetative flotsam from the waters off Papua. The leaf imagery in the work specifically references the mangrove leaves typical of the Papuan coastline where the submarine disappeared.
In the concept, an abstracted version of such a wreath appears to hover or levitate above the water surface. A complex arrangement of stainless steel linear elements (“twigs”) generates the form of the wreath. A number of these linear elements contain a concealed lightsource which reflects down onto the water surface and multiplies the optical intrigue of the sculptural form. In so doing, the work appears to hover above the water surface.
This reflection onto the harbour’s warers and the potential for multiple reflections at depth provides the night time essence of this work.
This is an artwork about reflection, both literal and philosophical. The overriding intention is to capture a moment of pause, reflection and contemplation on the part of the viewer.