1.2. Diver Art: Underwater Painting
Up until now, we’ve known artists who have been inspired by SCUBA diving to create art. But what if I told you there are SCUBA diving artists?
The SCUBA diving artist is the one who creates underwater. The greatest exponent of this type of artist is the one who creates underwater paintings with an inherent difficulty: in the depths, colors like reds, oranges, and purples fade away.
Zarh H. Pritchard
Although it may seem very novel, the truth is that underwater painting already has a 150-year tradition. Its precursor was Walter Holiwson Mackenzie Pritchard, who wanted to be a scientist and was very interested in the ocean world. However, he ended up designing costumes and sets for Sarah Bernhardt and her marine-inspired show. He spent 12 years painting for underwater sets before returning to the sea, changing his name to Zarh H. Pritchard, and becoming the first underwater painter in history.
Since his participation in Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s Calypso team, André Laban stood out as an engineer and was a pioneer of diving. He developed the first underwater cameras used to film “The Silent World”, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 1956. He worked on the Cousteau Odyssey series and co-directed three films. Although it is true that cinema is a form of SCUBA diving art, Laban was still going to contribute much more.
Starting in 1966, he began painting his own underwater paints, which were internationally acclaimed and collected around the world. In 1996, he won the Palme d’Or at the Antibes World Underwater Image Festival for his film “Iris and Oniris”. In addition, a collection of his photographs produced between 1973 and 1983 was published as “One Bald Man”, released in 2007.
Andre Laban is a true pioneer who has been recognized in the worlds of cinema and underwater painting for his work in the SCUBA diving art world. With a canvas impregnated with chlorinated rubber and oil paint, André Laban created his artworks under the sea.
This is also how Alfonso Cruz works, an underwater painter from Terrassa, who even collaborated with Laban. Today, he is one of the world’s leading exponents of underwater painting, having painted the waters of Kenya, Cape Verde, Greece, Malta, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Following the same technique as Laban, the Spanish artist applies oil paint with a small spatula to achieve expressionist diving artworks. His underwater paintings combine the heterogeneous and vital with the inert and monochrome. Each piece of art captures small corners of the marine macrosystem, rescuing the spirit of the depths and transforming his oils into doors to another dimension.
Other artists who stand out in the SCUBA diving art of underwater painting are Sandor Gonzalez, a Cuban artist, and Olga Nikitina, a Russian painter who was first a diving instructor.