lifesized sculpture of an American Manatee with artist Jacha Potgieter

Saving the Deep – an exhibition by Jacha Potgieter in Chester Cathedral July 1st – October 31st 2019

My latest exhibition comprising of 12 recycling sculptures is raising awareness of endangered marine species and highlighting the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans.

A topical and thought provoking installation in the cloisters of Chester Cathedral

Each year the cathedral holds a variety of exhibitions and events centred around a theme, this year’s theme being “Waves”. I was honoured to be invited by the cathedral to create an exhibition for this years selection of extraordinary special events.

Thought provoking life-sized sculptures of a Totoaba fish and Vaquita
Totoaba & Vaquita sculptures against the backdrop of a beautiful stained glass window in the cloisters of Chester Cathedral

“The whole exhibition is created from just three short visits to the beach”

After visiting Criccieth beach, local to me here in north Wales, I was disturbed to see the huge amount of plastic waste and discarded fishing equipment that had washed up on the shore. I knew that this would be having a detrimental impact on the sea life in my local area, which then got me thinking about the bigger picture and the devastating impact “plastic islands” such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are having on sea life globally. I knew I had to raise as much awareness as possible of the impact of plastic pollution and it seemed a good idea to tie this in with the plight of endangered or threatened species sharing the ocean with the pollution.

And so Saving the Deep was born. I created 12 life sized recycled sculptures using rubbish collected from the beach, the whole exhibition being created from just three short visits.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna sculpture made from plastic collected from the beach by artist Jacha Potgieter
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna sculpture – part of the Saving the Deep exhibition

As well as the 12 sculptures, Saving the Deep also has three photographic prints that highlight the impact of plastic on our marine animals, each print shows an aquatic species imprisoned in a plastic bottle. I wanted to show how plastic items such as plastic bottles, that we may use just once before discarding, can last a lifetime and have a detrimental impact on our wildlife.

Globally one million plastic bottles are sold every minute and it is estimated that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020, how many of these will be recycled correctly I wonder? I read an article last year on National Geographic that stated that an incredible 91% of plastic isn’t recycled.

Not only is our ever increasing dependance on single use plastic effecting marine species, it is also impacting on us, as it is entering our food sources. Recent studies point to increasing amounts of plastic within the seafood we eat on a regular basis (although not me as I’m a vegetarian). A study by Ghent University in Belgium , for example, found that people who regularly eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic each year. Something to think about next time you are planning a meal.

Photographic print of plastic pollutions impact on marine species
The impact of plastic pollution on marine species with artist Jacha Potgieter

If you walk clockwise around the cloisters and follow the Saving the Deep trail you will find:

  • Totoaba and Vaquita sculptures
  • Mediterranean Monk Seal sculpture
  • Three photographic prints of the impact of plastic pollution on marine species
  • Hawksbill Turtle sculpture
  • Atlantic Bluefin Tuna sculpture
  • Amsterdam Albatross sculpture
  • Seahorse and coral domed installation
  • Krill domed installation
  • African Cape Penguin sculpture
  • American Manatee sculpture
  • Shark finning table
  • The impact of plastic pollution on seabirds

I very much hope as many people as possible¬†will be able to visit the exhibition in person so you can see the sculptures up close and personal, there are so many interesting details ¬†that you may not see in the photographs. I know for many it is too far a journey to make, so if you would like to see all of the sculptures, why not take a look at the recycling art page on my art gallery’s website and browse the whole collection.

I’d love to hear your feedback, if you have visited the cathedral please do let me know your thoughts:

All photos of the exhibition were taken by my good friend and photographer Cristian Barnett

Posted: August 2, 2019 by Kate Vincent

Jacha’s art can be seen here:

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