The Ocular Superiority of Cephalopods (2019) and Echinoderm Dentata (2019)

Erin Coates was born and raised in Albany, a coastal city on the southern tip of Western Australia. Her fascination with the ocean is partly inherited as her father was a professional shell diver; she grew up in a house full of shells, marine curios and relics from shipwrecks. An avid snorkeler and free-diver herself, the variety of marine life in her graphite drawings comes from first-hand observation. Across the series we see a menagerie of molluscs, sponges, weeds and corals in combination with parts of the human body.

The Ocular Superiority of Cephalopods (2019) sees octopus and human quite literally meet eye-to-eye. The two figures appear to be wrestling for space on the page but also in quiet observation of each other. EchinodermDentata(2019) describes a similar hybrid, where animal meets human.

The title gives us a clue as to the combination. An echinoderm is a species of marine invertebrates, such as the starfish or sea cucumber, and the Latin term dentatameans “toothed”. As you scan the fleshy forms populating the drawing you encounter sets of human teeth. Coates draws parallels between metaphors of the ocean and metaphors of the self. Having spent much of her time exploring the ocean, she shares an endless fascination and empathy for marine species.

My fear is not of what is in the ocean, but the effect humans are having on it.
Erin Coates

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Works of art inspired by whaling and environmental change

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