Talk about having a sea foot: Over the past 20 years, artist Danielle Eubank has sailed the world’s oceans and captured the experiences in abstract paintings that delve into the beauty, unpredictability and drama of free water.
“Boundless”, an exhibition consisting largely of recent ocean paintings by Eubank, is on display at the Pamela Walsh Gallery in Palo Alto until January 22.
In an interview with this publication, Eubank said that she has always been drawn to water, but that there are several reasons why it has become such an important theme in her work. On the one hand, she loves a challenge – and she always has.
As a child, Eubank already frequently drew and created art. Time at the beach inspired her from a young age, growing up in Sonoma County, near Bodega Bay.
One day, around the age of 12, she recalled, “look at the waves, sit there for a second, do nothing really, look at the water and think, ‘I could never draw this. . It’s beautiful and it’s intense and it’s amazing, but I don’t see anything more difficult to draw “, that’s what came to my mind at that moment”, did she declared.
In addition to the challenge, the emotional appeal of people’s experiences with water and the element’s ever-changing nature help open it, as a subject, to wide interpretation.
“The good thing about water is that it is organic. And what you see in it is very abstract … I can create all kinds of shapes that I like and colors that I like. I like and abstract ideas and emotions, and yet I can still mold it to make it look like water, which everyone likes.
We all have experience with water. Whether swimming or boating, fishing or drinking water, farming or being on vacation, we all have some kind of memory related to water, so it’s very evocative, ”she said.
Eubank has now spent two decades taking on his own challenge of representing water in his art, with trips to the five oceans of the world: Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and South. A 2019 trip to the Southern Ocean near Antarctica completed his quest to document all of the world’s oceans. Most of the works featured in “Boundless” were inspired by this most recent trip.
Eubank draws on both colors and textures viewers might find surprising for ocean-themed paintings, a departure from the expected seaside palette of blues and greens, and smooth, glassy surfaces that evoke often water in art.
Shades of blue and green appear in his pieces, but in works such as Southern Ocean IX and Southern Ocean VI, puddles and splashes of cool reds and pinks – even a fiery orange in Southern Ocean X – ripple across the sea. cloth. White makes frequent appearances, adding reflections and a sense of depth and luminescence to pieces such as Southern Ocean XIV.
In Southern Ocean XI and Southern Ocean VII, the brushstrokes and occasional brushstrokes of the canvas below can be seen, while the surface of Southern Ocean XIII appears almost velvety. The exhibition also includes Waterlow I, a highly textured work from the start of Eubank’s career, circa 2003.
The wide palette and range of textures reflects the unpredictability of the subject, but also something more: an emotional interpretation of the bodies of water that Eubank has known. She said that once she really started to understand the fact that she had visited and painted all the oceans on the planet, “I subconsciously started to release my palette a lot. So I think what is happening is happening is that I have documented these waters, and now I’m going into the water experience. And all the time I think about my feelings about the place, about the water in general. So they are much more emotional. “
Eubank certainly has some unique experiences to share. Not only has she traveled the five oceans of the world, but she also worked as an expedition painter on a number of these trips, documenting crew members and people ashore, ships and other environments encountered during the trip. She has made four international sailing expeditions and two of these trips were made on ships replicating historic ships. Her first such trip was in a replica of the Borobudur ship, a former Indonesian ship, on a voyage that bypassed the Cape of Good Hope, sailing from Indonesia to Ghana. Her next trip was aboard a replica of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician ship that circled Africa. She also made an expedition to the Arctic on a tall barquentine (three masted).
Living life aboard these unusual ships offered not only a close-up perspective on the oceans, but also on how humanity through the ages traveled on water, relied on water, and sometimes struggled to survive. the hardness of the ocean.
“When you are on one of these boats, there is no running water. There is no flush toilet or anything like that. There is no oven or other convenience like that. … I compare it to camping with 10 strangers and you are not allowed to leave the campsite, ”she said, noting that she enjoyed the challenges of everyday life on board these ships, like finding means of cooking and cleaning with salt water.
Eubank’s trip to the Southern Ocean in 2019 was made on a modern ship, but in every way every trip is part of the artistic process. On many of these voyages, Eubank was on board both as an artist and a crew member.
This first voyage on the narrow wooden ship of Borobudur taught Eubank, among other things, what she should – and should not – take as an expedition artist. The canvases not only proved unwieldy in the limited space, but as she noted, the canvas is literally the fabric that the sails are made of, and they were in danger of blowing away.
She quickly rationalized her supplies to document her future travels: three sketchbooks of varying sizes, including one pocket-sized, for oil paintings and drawings. The work of these sketchbooks would give birth to his paintings. And travel has shaped his view of water as a subject.
“I used to paint water before going on an expedition. But I feel like I understand it a lot more. I’ve always had a healthy respect for the ocean, in terms of power, but I’ve never really understood how different it is in the open sea compared to what it is when it is next to an object like an island: the color changes, the depth changes, the wave pattern changes, you get different types of waves.
And then, of course, when you’re in a cold place like the Arctic or the Southern Ocean, you have all kinds of ice floating in the water. “
His 20-year travels have also revealed evidence of climate change, such as rock exposed by melting ice in the Arctic Ocean and changes in the behavior of marine life affected by ocean temperature. Eubank remembers seeing more marine life in the Southern Ocean than she imagined.
“As the oceans warm up, a lot of the marine life is heading towards the poles. So in this case, they’re heading south where the water is a bit cooler,” she said. .
Now that Eubank has painted the world’s five oceans, she said she would like to visit and paint the five gyres – the vast floating islands of largely plastic waste that continue to grow in the oceans – to raise awareness and inspire people to take action against plastic pollution of our oceans.
The Pamela Walsh Gallery is located at 540 Ramona Street, Palo Alto. For more information visit pamelawalshgallery.com.