Attempting to map the unknown in order to better understand the world around us has long been a product of human curiosity. The oceans have always existed as the ultimate site of uncertainty on our planet for humans, and a consistent point of interest by artists and scientists alike. However, historically the oceans have been mapped and charted only in regards to the land mass that they boarder, no doubt a product of economic needs. Capturing only the peripheries of landmass and focusing on the void that results in their absence, internationally acclaimed German born photographer Andreas Gursky recently embarked on a new photographic series that is currently on view at Sprueth Magers in Berlin. The exhibition features a new six-part series of images titled Ocean I-VI, which was conceived by the artist during a flight from Dubai to Melbourne. The images capture the oceanic space that lies between Africa and the tip of Australia near Antarctica. To create the series, the artist used high-definition satellite images that were augmented from varies photographs sourced from the internet. The sourced images provided the artist with an accurate view of the land mass and coastal lines, but caused for Gursky to fully generate the oceans through digital means. The resulting fabricated waters, which link the landmass, take on the aesthetics of a formal painting with textures and shifting tonalities directed by compositional principles.
With the exception of a single work, all of the exhibited images depict the void in between the land mass, drawing attention to an often forgotten space. The manufactured illustration of the oceans also acts to underscore the development of cartography, which rarely focused on the oceans, mainly due to a lack of knowledge followed by little economic motivation. But in this series, the artist is able to give form to the shapeless seas based on the contours of the surrounding land mass, while also illuminating a part of the world that often escapes any trace of human presence.