Algae Art - Artists inspired by seaweed
Seaweed has not only been used as a source of food, medicine and fuel since the beginning of time, the sea vegetable has also been a source of inspiration for artists. If you climb out over the rocks on the beach or spend some time amongst rock pools you can really see why.
There are over 600 types of seaweeds in a myriad of shapes, colours, textures and sizes in a rainbow of colours. Some seaweeds are dark and haunting, reminiscent of a monster of the deep, others are small and delicate.
We have researched our favourite seaweed art and artists so you can see for yourself.
After an operation in later life left Matisse too weak to paint he turned to cut-outs which he could make from his bed.
The inspiration for this period came from a trip Matisse took to Tahiti in 1930 while struggling through a crisis of confidence in his work. The trip, at the time, proved unfruitful for Matisse, he returned with nothing but a few sketches and said at the time ‘I came back from the islands absolutely empty-handed.’ However, over time memories of the island became embedded in his work as he produced cut-outs of sea vegetation, lagoons and the south-pacific light.
His passion became all-consuming and Henri produced two beautiful works of art screen-printed on linen. Oceania, the Sky and Oceania, the Sea, in which white birds and sea creatures swoop and dart among seaweed and coral. “The memories of my voyage to Tahiti have only now returned to me, 15 years later, in the form of obsessive images: madrepores, corals, birds, jellyfish, sponges,” Matisse told Brassaï, who visited the artist’s apartment in Paris in the summer of 1946, when the Oceania panels were taking shape. “It’s curious, isn’t it, that all these enchantments of the sky and sea hardly inspired me right off.”
Some would say this final period of Matisse's life was his most prodigious.
Inspired by both the clifftops and salt marshes of the North Norfolk coast and the Scottish Highlands, she depicts these contrasting environments and their native flora in wood engraving, linocut, silkscreen, lithograph and collage. Her still lifes often incorporate seedpods, grasses, flints and dried seaweed collected on walking and sketching trips.
Author Leslie Geddes-Brown who was inspired to write a book based on Lewins work says: ’Angie Lewin brings her own vision of the natural world to her work. She sees the beauty in all seasons and all manifestations of plants: the ordered pattern of the blooms, the thrusting energy of the emerging buds, the prolific seedheads and the varieties of shapes, colours and habits to be found in meadow and border.”
Argyll based artist Lottie Goodlet takes inspiration for her art through snorkelling trips on the north coast. Originally foraging seaweed as a food source, she soon found herself intrigued by the vegetable and found that when pressed, seaweeds can produce the most astounding colours. ‘Fife and Angus have an abundance of one of my favourite seaweeds - lava - which turns a gorgeous purple colour when pressed’ she says. Goodman says her pressing process takes around three weeks and after pressing she layers different types of seaweeds to combine textures and shapes, unless a single specimen intrigues her.
Hoch was a radical German painter and photomontage artist who’s pioneering artwork took on issues of gender, women and modern society. During the late 1920’s and early 1940’s she was part of the Dada movement in Berlin, the only woman to have been involved in the group of revolutionaries though found this to be a double edged sword as her aesthetic of borrowing popular culture, dismemberment and collage ruffled feathers within the inherent sexism of the movement. During the rise of the Nazi party Hoch found herself under attack as a producer of ‘degenerate art.’ While other artists fled, Hoch stayed put near Berlin and remained there throughout the second world war and until the end of her life. Her later works reflected her passion for nature and she incorporated leaves, twigs and organic matter into her collages.
The famous ukiyo-e named The Seaweed-gathering Ritual at Nagato is part of the series Famous Places in the Provinces by Hokkei made in 1834/35. Hokkei was a fishmonger before becoming an artist and was one of the most famous students of Hokusai. His work is light and simple and reflective of his teachers style. Big wave are rolling over two seaweed-gatherers and they have to run for their lives. The left man holds a stick with brown seaweed on top, whereas the right person has some green seaweed in his hand. A little hill of green seaweed is lying in the left corner of picture, on the ground of the ocean. The waves are similar to the famous ukiyo-e by Hokusai named The Great Wave of Kanagawa. Hokkei was one of Hokusai’s students and was a fishmonger before he became an artist.