Artistic statement

In 2008 we sold everything, left London and ran away to sea, in search of a ship.

The ship is a potent symbol, awash with cultural reference and metaphor. A symbol of voyage, representative of discovery, new life, adventure and the unknown, the ship is a go-between from this world to the next, a crossing made by the living or the dead to an unknown destination or a promised land.

“Navis”, Latin for “ship”, is the root-word for the Nave of a church as well as for “Navy”. In Christian tradition, the church is the boat in which the faithful embark to overcome the perils of this world. In a boat we take a leap of faith. Much of our artwork investigates notions of mortality, belief and the soul and as two artists, who live together, have children together and make art together, our practice has always reflected aspects of our own lives very directly.

We discovered “De Walvisch” (The Whale) a 19th Century Dutch sailing Klipper, rescued, re-rigged and restored her, and this led to the ship becoming part of our artistic practice, and to birth of the curatorial project The Cultureship.

We had no idea how to sail, and are learning along the way – we were interested in the symbolism of ship, the sculptural quality of the vessel, the possibilities of stage presented by the ropes and rigging, echoic of the theatre. We saw the ship as a Duchamp-ian readymade, an artwork that we could inhabit. The Dutch 17th Century aesthetic of our filmworks, with dramatic chiaro-scuro lighting, crossed over from film-frame to interior: the vessel is painted black inside and out, so that one enters the ship as if entering a painting itself. It is stage, set and subject.

A sailing ship, by its very nature, requires collaboration – a crew to work together for a common goal or destination. The timeless quality of a sailing ship and the language of mariners, so embued in the collective conscience creates instant dialogue with the past, to conversations of long dead men who first set sail into the unknown with a compulsion for knowledge and new ideas.

The ship, De Walvisch, has therefore become a catalyst for creativity, a heterotopic space which can take one on both a physical and metaphorical journey. Since bringing her to London in 2011 she has carried afloat creatives of all disciplines, from world-famous musicians and artists to leading marine engineers and physicists, gathered aboard for Salon events or one-off cultural performances and projects. Our aim has been to create an environment conducive to creativity, collaboration and wonderment.

Alongside, we have developed the cultural organisation that is The Cultureship. Incorporated as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company in 2013, The Cultureship now produces high-impact art projects and performances with a maritime context, free to the public.


For the history of the ship De Walvisch, click here