Last week the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse appeared on the shores under Vauxhall Bridge, their ghostly cement heads rising from the Thames as the tide withdrew, casting their stony shadows upon Parliament.
The riders and their steeds are the work of artist and conservationist Jason deCaires Taylor. ‘The Rising Tide’ is Taylor’s attempts to address the effects that climate change are having on the wellbeing of our waters and their ecosystems. The sculpture appears from afar like a classical imagining of the Four Horseman, until you look closer and notice that the horse heads have been replaced with a type of oil-well pump called “horse heads”.
Speaking about the piece Taylor is quoted as saying, “I wanted a piece that was going to be revealed with the tide and worked with the natural environment of the Thames, but also alluded to the industrial nature of the city and it’s obsessive and damaging focus just on work and construction.”
It’s not the first time Taylor has used his sculptures to aid in the conservation of the world’s bodies of water. Back in 2011 he was the brain behind ‘The Silent Evolution’, the world’s first underwater museum at the National Marine Park of Punta Cancun. His thought process behind that sculpture had been to draw divers away from the natural coral reefs nearby. Using carefully chosen materials to create the 400-strong army of statues that comprise ‘The Silent Evolution’, Taylor created an environment that replicated that of the reefs and would attract aquatic creatures as well as sea tourists. He is now working on his second underwater museum, a sub-surface botanical garden in Lanzarote, followed by another underwater project in Bali.
It is Taylor’s belief that the concealed nature of the sea is the reason why we seem to offer it less protection. “If we walked past a forest that was disintegrating every day and with animals dead by the side of the road, we would be much more aware of our actions. But underwater, it is out of site and is a problem so easily ignored. So, a big part of my work is to bring people’s focus and their awareness to this destruction of our seas and of the natural world.”
The sculpture was commissioned as part of the Totally Thames festival which takes place at locations across London throughout September.