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Exhibition: Above, below and beyond by freediving photographic artist Janeanne Gilchrist

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Janeanne Gilchrist is a photographic artist and image-maker. She was born and brought up in Edinburgh and graduated from Napier University in 1996 with a BA (Honours) in photography and film.

The sea and the self: these are territories Janeanne Gilchrist explores and merges seductively in this exhibition of intricately composed and infinitely ambiguous sub-aquatic images.

She forages for objects in the depths – a tangle of fishing net, a singed seaman’s sou’wester, discarded fish gut, a decomposing plastic bag – the thoughtlessly discarded cast-offs of fishermen and of man. She searches out subjects – the spawning seaweed, the mesmerizing alien glow of a jellyfish, the stone washed bones of a migratory bird.

Structuralism

The work is made to provoke, and it will be criticized for turning rubbish into art however what it aims to do is raise the debate further about the state of all our waterways across our land and beyond.

Having dived around Scotland for the past 10 years she is trying to share an experience of what she has found and how to communicate this in a more powerful way. Receiving the J.D Ferguson Art Award has given her the opportunity to explore and create this body of work to highlight environmental issues.

A big problem is that by the time this waste is washing up on the shore, the damage is already done and we are only dealing with the fall out. As Janeanne says:

“What we’re doing — cleaning up our own mess — addresses just a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself”.

The work explores subconscious emotional memories and otherworldly fables and folklore. It also features found items that had a place, a function, a use, in one world, which are now abandoned, adrift and discarded, in another world in which they take on an ethereal distorted temporal beauty, dissolving and breaking down into the aquatic environment.

Anthropomorphism

The process of developing this work has come through observation and years of devoted water time, evolving study and exploration.

Janeanne has been lucky enough to find a partner, a soul mate, who was responsible for taking her on her first ever dive expedition to Egypt and diving Ras Mohammed. Those first few dives of breathing in air from a regulator underwater and trusting the heavy equipment kept her safe, and was her first step into another dimension to explore a remarkable water world.

Back home in Scotland, the need to wear dry suits and even more weight always made her feel awkward and anxious, checking dials and opening valves distracts from the whole experience and reason for being there. Her quest was to be in the moment, in the water, to lose herself. To focus on just herself and her surroundings. To meditate, breathe and become one.

So she learnt to freedive…

“To free dive is the most amazing sensation. Mastering your fear and hanging silently suspended in the blue/green of the sea, in gin- clear water, in glass-like conditions, is a spiritual experience.”

Janeanne combines her environmental underwater working practices to develop a new body of work based upon the intersection between scientific illustration, still life painting and technological advancements, experimenting with botanical imagery and the iconic visuals of fantasy to capturing organic and non-organic matter.

Janeanne seeks to discover moments, textures and stories. She fragments, manipulates and then reinvents the image into a new entity which resembles the original, but is, in fact, entirely contemporary. She rebuilds these new pieces of work, swaying between reality and surrealism in a moving composition.

“This work can’t be reproduced. It is completely unique. Capturing these moments while free diving in challenging conditions in the waters around Scotland isn’t easy. The current is playing with them and with me, the entire time – I am trying to capture something that’s never going to be in the same location, same light, same position, ever again.”

Janeanne goes on to say:

“Unlike surfing or any other action sport, free diving is not all about swimming fast or expelling a lot of energy. It’s more to do with clearing your mind, finding your internal flow state, completely relaxing, calming yourself, focusing on your breath and enjoying the trip… and anyone can do it.

Humans are one of the few species that share the mammalian dive reflex, same as seals, dolphins and whales. We (everyone) has the natural ability to hold your breath for two minutes. It’s very easy to learn, but to push over the two minute mark, that’s where the discipline and training comes into its own. Swimming regularly practicing your technique, a good clean diet and yoga helps.

Best of all, we have found that the Free diving has helped in other parts of our life especially with surfing or as a coping mechanism for dealing with stressful situations in general. It teaches you to always take a deep slow breath, step back and relax the heart rate. I would encourage everyone to do a free diving course after a few short training days to give you the tools and techniques to practice safely. It’s the best way to unlock your potential in a safe environment. I did my course with Steve Millard of www.learn2freedive.com.”

When Janeanne is not on her aquatic journeys, She works in partnership with her partner Will Beeslaar running Staunch Industries Design, a small independent design studio and lifestyle brand based in Leith, Edinburgh.

Above, below and beyond by Janeanne Gilchrist is at the J D Fergusson Gallery in Perth, Scotland from 18 November to 24 March 2018.


Catalogue photographs – Janeanne Gilchrist

Artist portrait photograph – Will Beeslaar

Creative Image Retouching – Will Beeslaar

All images are copyright with the artist www.janeannegilchristartist.com

Follow Janeanne’s work at:

 

Steve Millard is a leading UK based AIDA and PADI Freediving Instructor Trainer who is the owner of Apneists UK freediving group - www.freedivers.co.uk. Currently Press officer to the British Freediving Association and Performance mermaids lead coach.

Freediving Blogs

Jeff chats to… Breathwork Practitioner Hannah Goodman (Watch Video)

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In this Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman talks to Breathwork Practitioner Hannah Goodman about breathing correctly to enhance our diving experiences.

Find out more at https://grounded.life.

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Freediving Blogs

Swimming and snorkelling with Manatees

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We love manatees. And November is traditionally Manatee Awareness Month – a time to celebrate this iconic marine mammal and create awareness of the challenges they face. In this post, our friends at Effortless Outdoors share the manatee love and also some info on many of the best destinations to swim and snorkel with them around the world…

Manatees are really gentle, delightful sea creatures and getting a chance to see them up close should be on the bucket list of anyone who enjoys diving and snorkelling. They’re big beasts (typically weighing around half a ton) and they tend to move really slowly, making them ideal for underwater viewing.

They spend around 6-7 hours a day grazing, eating up to 15% of their body weight every single day. They use their front flippers for feeding; first using them to crawl along the ground, then for digging out plants and finally for scooping the vegetation into their mouths. It’s a pretty unique and involved way of feeding and very charming to watch. 

These awesome creatures can live up to sixty years. They are highly intelligent, capable of understanding discrimination tasks and associated items with one another. They have good long-term memory and have often been compared to dolphins concerning their capacity to learn tasks and develop mentally.

Populations of manatees are fairly low. Although they have no natural predators, they are threatened by human activities (they are often killed by ship accidents, as well as red tide and the accidental ingestion of fishing materials). The West Africa and Amazonian manatees are very rare. And scientists estimate there are about 13,000 West Indian manatees with their status modulating between ‘endangered’ and ‘threatened’.

West Indian manatees range up and down the east coast of the Americas (as far south as Brazil and as far north as Virginia) with many of the best viewing spots being well-served for those wanting a manatee experience.

Check out this post about the best places to swim and snorkel with manatees.


Want to read more about manatees? Check out Nick and Caroline’s magical manatee encounters in Crystal River, Florida in the latest Autumn 2019 issue of Dive Travel Adventures HERE!

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