Tacita Dean: From Sea To Sea

Saida Santana

British artist Tacita Dean welcomes the sea as a major influence in her films, drawings and installations.


The sea, contemplative, magnetic, menacing: these are some of the images captured by the British artist Tacita Dean in her exhibition De mar en mar (From Sea to Sea). Here is an invitation to come hear the whisper of the waves at the Botín Foundation in Santander, Spain, where the exhibit will be on view until January 12th, 2014.

Tacita Dean
Paloma Botín, Tacita Dean, Vicente Tidolí.

Tacita Dean (Canterbury, England, 1965) returns to Santander months after she led the Villar Iris art workshop this July. She brings the sea, as an emblematic symbol from her early career, to this coastal city of northern Spain.

The sea has been a recurring theme in her oeuvre since the mid 1990s. Dean cites the magnetic inspiration she draws from the sea and casts a spell on viewers through a cohesive body of works that make up this show. From Sea to Sea, curated by Vincent Todolí, includes works from the period between 1994 and 2008, when the artist introduced different materials to represent the sea, circumstantially, as background, protagonist or as a connecting element.

Dean‘s work is characterized by the use of varied media such as film, photography, drawing and sound. Her films depart from conventional Hollywood stereotypes, and despite their high production values, this renowned artist takes risks with extremely long sequences, which, more than pursuing an action, look at the world without altering what is perceived, a walk through the ordinary at its own tempo.

For this exhibit, the artist rescued a series of chalk drawings on blackboard, begun in 1992 while she was a student at London’s Slade School of Fine Arts. The images are supported by a film, which seals our uncompromising attention.

Tacita Dean

Girl Stowaway is one of her first works. Dean delves into the experience of a stowaway who traveled from Port Lincoln, Australia to Falmouth, England in 1928. Meanwhile, Amadeus (2008) is her most recent piece dedicated to the sea: a crossing from France to England and the return back home through the English Channel. “It was commissioned for the Folkestone Triennial. I was born near there, where our family home still remains. For me, it was a complex project because of the proximity to things I was so familiar with, in my childhood,” says Dean about this piece. “Finally, I undertook an uncomfortable and symbolic return trip through the Channel”.

Some of her most emblematic films also echo marine themes. Disappearance at Sea, which includes photographs and a book by the artist, is based on the story of Donald Crawhurst, a businessman, whom, without any sailing experience, participated in the 1968 Golden Globe race. Crawhurst committed suicide, some time later, amid the vast sea, having lost all sense of time and reference points.

Disappearance at Sea II, another of her works, was inspired by the legend of Tristan and Isolde. The exhibition also features Delft Hydraulics (1996), Bubble House (1999) and, from 2000, Teignmouth Electron.

Tacita Dean approaches the universe with a unique vision. This time, she ushers the waves of her imagination onto shore transformed into works of art. “The sea has played an essential role in my work,” concludes the artist. “This exhibition is a way to seal a period of interest in the sea, something like placing a ship inside a bottle.”


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