Abstract ocean paintings
Dimitri Zoellin’s Oceans is a series of paintings focused on marine life. Rendered in his trademark raw art style, these paintings are as multiform, mysterious, and captivating as the species he depicts.
Calls for action
The mixed media pieces combine jellyfish, classic Zoellin characters, as well as call for action to protect our oceans. Other pieces depict fish and jellyfish on their own, floating in the depths and shallows of the waters. The mixture balances out the social dimension and purpose of the series with the haunting imagery of its denizens.
Using his art like a homing pigeon, these works guide the artist and the viewer back to the ultimate home for all life. They send us back to the origin, the true north of all things that grow. We all have a role to play. The artist’s task would be to convey messages through his works of art!
Painting the surreal ocean
The pieces in Oceans are colorful, inspired, large format work that brings us down into the water and delivers warnings.
Communication through colors
In “Dive and Dream Deeper,” Zoellin uses stencils to illustrate a scaled body, outlined in bold paint strokes. The body is a hybrid between a fish and a submarine, like a living vessel that may be taken into the depths.
Zoellin communicates through his canvas and wants his colors to make people think.
Painting of the sea
He takes this to more abstract levels in “Fish.” We are now in black waters, with an intricately illustrated fish ornamented by the point techniques he learned from mentors in the Australian Aboriginal community. This piece breaks open the direct view of a fish and stand-in for a more general appreciation of all underwater life.
Celebrating marine life
Yet in other pieces, the lifeforms are depicted in more representational terms. The diptych “Fishes” shows a school of fish swimming in a line through leaves. By breaking apart this scene into two panels and using multiple forms of marine life, Zoellin creates a stylish rhythm while he communicates the vitality of our oceans. Similarly, “Medusa” and his untitled fish painting bring these images of aquatic creatures into focus.
Paintings like these remind the viewer of the bounty of the ocean, an important thing to keep in mind when we transition to the more message-based work.
Zoellin communicates the dire conditions in enormous pieces like the mixed-media “Oceans,” which integrates messages in multiple languages, a map of the earth, and lifeforms. The bold presentation is confrontational, dramatic — it matches the urgency and size of the problem itself.
The artist’s connection to the ocean
Zoellin began surfing when he was a kid. Since that time, his life has been lived on and around the ocean. As a young man, he began circling the globe on waterborne adventures, building an indelible connection between the artist and his ultimate muse.
A history on the open water
With his experience and passion for open waters, Zoellin became a professional skipper. He crossed and recrossed the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. He explored the Caribbean, its hidden islands. Along the way, he met with and built relationships with the people who live there.
In the 1990s, he began surfing the waves Teahupoo, a village on the southwestern coast of Tahiti. He made it his home after falling in love with French Polynesia. In the 30 years, he’s lived there, Zoellin has built a reputation as both a prominent surfer and an artist.
Tribute to home
This profound bond to the ocean reveals itself in the tenderness with which he paints the lifeforms below the surface.
In Oceans, the artist can express not only the importance of protecting this habitat. He also makes tribute, through paint and canvas, to the waves and the immense, shifting body of water that covers so much of the earth in its embrace.
Using art to begin the mission
The oceans are the origin point for all life. They cradled us into existence and continue to provide for the world — without the oceans, life as we know it could not exist. Ocean life produces 50-80% of the oxygen we breathe. It provides us with food, helps regulate heat, generates rain, and absorbs carbon dioxide.
The abundant home
The ocean isn’t just a provider, it is home to an enormous, diverse array of creatures, plants, and microorganisms. The wonders that exist under the surface of the water are an entirely another world.
And yet, despite the importance of the oceans and despite their immense size and power, the oceans are dying.
Human impact on our oceans
Human activity has caused a dramatic loss in ocean life. The number of living creatures in our oceans is plummeting from acidification, pollution, overfishing, oil spills, toxic chemicals, and rising global temperatures.
These threats continue to lay siege to the habitats of some of the earth’s most amazing creatures. For the first time in human history, we are facing a future without the whale, the living coral reef.
As the whales goes, so will we
The whale, once reigning monarchs of the water, have found their numbers devastated after generations of whaling and the growing impact of climate change. The whales are not the only species facing extinction, but they are perhaps the ultimate symbol for the loss we face.
As Zoellin himself says on his own canvas, “If the ocean dies, we die.”
The message of the ocean paintings
Oceans remind us that we must begin today. We must join with others who are already at work. Because whether we know it or not, just as life came from the oceans, so will life die along with it.
“I want to be happy like Nemo, and I want my grandchildren to still be able to see whales”, says the artist.