Nicolas Floc’h travels the seas to index underwater landscapes. For this long-term project, called “Productive Landscapes“, the artist has become an experienced navigator, professional diver, an expert in oceanography and much more. Since 2015, Floc’h has been revealing an invisible world by taking the underwater landscape as a subject, and breaking with the usual codes of the genre: instead of saturated color, he opts for black and white, wide angle and natural light. These photographic landscapes reveal fascinating, but also frightening, worlds: the effects of discharges, global warming and acidification, appear more marked there than on Earth. Are there any “untouched” underwater areas left? What does an “acidic” landscape look like? Does the presence of fish necessarily indicate rich ecosystems? This epic undertaking of Floc’h’s makes it possible to respond not only by image but by science – the majority of his sea expeditions (in Brittany, Japan, Sicily, etc) have been carried out within the framework of scientific research programs (with Ifremer – French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, CNRS French National Scientific Research Council, MNHN French National Museum of Natural History).

Landscapes that are located near the coast are those that interest the artist the most, because they reflect not only global challenges but also local issues, on which it is possible to act more quickly. Thus, his shots of the underwater landscapes of the Calanques National Park, from Marseille to La Ciotat (a 162 kilometers swim!), currently exhibited at the Frac Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France, reveal the poverty of an ecosystem which is under pressure from pollution, despite the presence of numerous fish.

If his landscapes are in black and white, Floc’h also makes the color of water speak. His monochrome prints vary from green to blue. Each color provides information on the carbon cycle, the presence of sediment, the quantity of phytoplankton, as well as pollution. These monochrome images, close to abstraction, take us to the heart of life and its origins!

Former resident of the legendary Tara boat, Floc’h collects and then exhibits the transformations of the underwater world – a world that is in great danger. Comparing acidic / non-acidic underwater landscapes reveals at a glance the disaster that is imminent.

Slowed down in his investigations by the pandemic, Floc’h maintains the zen of the freediver and prepares for his next odyssey. For the first time, his camera will dive without him, to explore the sea at the limit of the visible, 100 meters deep. For a few more years, he will continue to explore the interdependence of land and sea destinies, and thus change our awareness of the ocean.

Alice Audouin

October 2020

Translated from French by Alice Audouin and Jeremy Allen


Credit: La couleur de l’eau, vue de l’exposition Nicolas Floc’h, FRAC PACA, 2020, ADAGP Lauren Lecat / Invisible (détail), vue de l’exposition Nicolas Floc’h, FRAC PACA, 2020, ADAGP Lauren Lecat

Find all the articles from Impact Art News n°23 – October 2020

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