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Artist's Statement : Paper Seas and Paper Boats

'Relic. Abundance. Festina Lente' By Phi


Maps and sea charts record the explored, known world reassuring us- we know where we're going. It’s all mapped out.

However, with climate change and warming, acidifying oceans we are currently heading in to the unknown,  in to uncharted waters. Hic sunt dracones! ‘Here Be Dragons’ was marked on early maps and sea charts by cartographers to signify uncharted territory, the great, vast Unknown. 


I am developing a growing body of work around this theme, painted, drawn and printed onto sea charts.

Marine charts are beautiful objects in themselves and each has a story to tell.


My 'Hic sunt dracones' (Here be dragons) seacharts refer to the latin inscribed on early maps and globes (C16-17th) to mark unexplored, uncharted territory. Strange little monsters, dragons, three-headed fish were drawn on the globe to warn travellers that this area is the great, vast, scary unknown.

Maps and sea charts, generally, record the explored, known world reassuring us- we know where we're going; it's all mapped out. However with climate change, warming acidifying oceans, biodiversity decline and the pandemic  we are currently heading in to the unknown.  We are in uncharted waters. Hic sunt dracones! I began this series in 2016 and continue to create my own group of 'dracones' to adorn contemporary charts and maps to represent this.


A paper boat at sea conveys an image of fragility or vulnerability effectively reminding that our seas are in need of care. The paper boats are housed in a beautiful glass case, a symbol of preservation and reminiscent of model boats in large wooden display cases. An array of diatoms on the inside surfaces of the boat see it become a protective vessel, an ark. 

Diatoms are small but mighty phytoplankton with beautiful shells of silica- fascinating algae that live in intricate glass houses. They play important ecological roles on a global scale as, through carbon fixation, diatoms remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere ( they take more carbon out of the atmosphere than all the world’s tropical rainforest), are an important part of the food web and they produce a significant proportion of the world's oxygen- infact they liberate enough oxygen for our every fifth breath.

My Dolfish - half dolphin, half fish- has become my  signature in these works, brought to life through augmented reality (AR), signifying the unfamiliar and what we may discover there... on paper seas. (*AR Dolfish app)

The Archipelago works, depicting human landforms embedded in the chart as Motu, began in 2020. We are part of nature, not separate to it and so I am re-charting the landscape, with the human as landforms/islands, part of the ecosystem. Only with this way of seeing, this world view, can we be part of a harmonious whole. These works also refer to a sense of belonging, a sense of place, of Turangawaewae. (Short film discussing this- link.)

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