Scuba diver and professional artist Laura Parker says she is “absolutely delighted” to have her Caribbean diving-inspired artwork “In Deep” lighting up central London.
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She produced the blue underwater painting during the first lockdown in 2020, and submitted it to the W1 Curates art gallery’s “Light It Blue” campaign in support of the NHS. But she says she was astonished to see it projected over three floors of luxury clothing store Flannels in Oxford Street last Thursday (4 March).
During lockdown W1 Curates has taken over the expansive glazed frontage of Flannels and other spaces in what is normally Europe’s busiest shopping street. “Too often, wonderful art can feel exclusive, secluded within dusty galleries or intimidating exhibitions,” says the gallery. “We’ve transformed the exterior of Flannels’ London flagship store into an extraordinary public exhibition.”
“In Deep” is set to turn the Oxford Street site into a giant aquarium over the next few Thursday evenings from 5pm to midnight, and Parker says she hopes it will bring “a quiet moment of hope to people walking by and looking up at the painting”.
Painted in acrylics on canvas, the work expresses “enjoying the sense of being cocooned by the ocean, and gazing up at the surface far above,” she says. “I painted it as an antidote to the bleakness of lockdown, as I remembered serene moments experienced under the waves.”
Parker told Divernet that she qualified as a PADI instructor in the UK in November 2007 at the age of 55 “having done my Open Water only in March 2006 in the British Virgin Islands”.
After working as an instructor in the UK, in recent years she has dived only for pleasure overseas, including trips to Grenada seven years’ running. “My underwater paintings are all based on my experiences diving its clear waters with the crew at Aquanauts,” she said.
Parker is particularly fond of the Veronica L and Shakem wrecks. “I used to dive the Bianca C, but in recent years she has deteriorated so much that I skip those dives – though she still firmly influences my artwork,” she says.
“When I dive these wrecks, the ‘artist’ part of my brain is always on the look-out for interesting shapes, to the extent that – until they knew me better – the crew would ask on surfacing what on Earth I was photographing. Rusty holes and rusting structures weren’t the norm on their dives!”
She mines her photographs for ideas to start off the paintings in her studio in Richmond, Surrey, but then “lets the shapes take on a life of their own, using colours that don’t necessarily correspond directly to what you see under the waves”.