Floe: A celebration of The Deep and the beauty of the sea

Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer are two UK-based artists who have worked in collaboration since 1991.  

Their artworks range from photographic and light installations to large-scale projection events and public art interventions. 

For Floe, the artists have created a concept based around the architecture of The Deep, which also celebrates the rich aquatic life within its walls. 

But how did they tackle the mammoth task of piecing it all together? We spoke to the artists to find out more ahead of the projection this evening at The Deep. 


How did you both meet, and when did you decide to start working together? 

We first met at art college in Cardiff and started working together in the early 90s whilst living and working in Newcastle upon Tyne.   

Our first collaboration was an exhibition we put together in our studio – a dark, cavernous space underneath The Cluny in Byker.  The exhibition was aptly named IThe Absence OLight because the space was without natural light. We used lighting as an integral part of each work we made and showed.

You developed some of the ideas for Floe by referring to Terry Farrell’s architectural vision of The Deep – what was the most interesting part about this research for you? 

At the start of the project we were given a copy of the architect’s sketch book and it was fascinating to see how geological and biological forms and processes fed in to the architect’s vision for The Deep and how these are physically expressed in the building.   

During the last ice age, the ice sheet terminated in this area and one of the images which apparently influenced the architect in the beginning was Caspar David Freidrich’s painting The Sea of Ice. 

The building is talked about as a geological metaphor, rising out of the ground like a crystalline formation and its surfaces are also described as having metaphorical associations with wave or glacier like forms.   

When you visit The Deep it’s interesting to see how these ideas extend into the interior spaces and the way in which the dramatic lighting gives you a sense of immersion in an ocean environment. 




The piece also explores Hull’s relationship with the sea – how have you achieved this? 

The Deep is built on Sammy’s Point, an area renowned for its shipbuilding heritage and previously where the 17th century citadel stood that formed part of the city defences. In our research, we looked at Hull’s maritime history and came across a number of paintings in the Hull Maritime Museum depicting whaling vessels such as the Diana and Chase caught up in Arctic ice floes.  

These images, along with Friedrich’s painting The Sea of Ice evoke a somewhat romanticised image of an inhospitable environment. We were interested in how this stylised version contrasted with the real materials of ice and rock, and we have alluded to this artistic interpretation as part of Floe.    


There are different stages the building will be taken through during the projection. Can you briefly talk about these stages and the meaning behind this? 

We have thought of this work as a cyclical piece and the different stages have provided us with a framework to work with.  Each stage alludes to the different processes that shape the earth such as the movement of water, weather and biological life.    

We have taken the idea of a rock coming out of the ground like a crystalline formation as our starting point – defining the geological forms and the processes that shape the transformations.  

The next stage defines the aquaria which we have thought of as crystalline forms with aquatic life emerging from them.  This is the most colourful part of the sequence and reflects the diversity of aquatic life before moving back again to a geological state.   


You’ve previously worked on a 1996 installation in Hull called ‘Float’ using three projected elements. Which work was the most challenging to create – Float or Floe? 

They have been challenging in different ways.  With Float the technology available then was different to the technology being used today, but the principle is basically the same.   

For Float we generated the imagery by building scale architectural models made to visually fit with the building which we photographed using a large format plate camera.  

With Floe we have physically built some of the models and used a combination of 4K film, time lapse photography film and post production editing to create the content to fit with a UV map of the building (UV being a co-ordinate system, the map being a 3D model constructed from a 3D laser scan of the site).  

Factors such as ambient light and weather also have an influence on how a projection will look so we are keeping all fingers crossed for reasonably clear weather!  


A soundscape has been created in response to the imagery used in Floe. How was this recorded? 

We have used a number of different sources for the soundscape – some we have recorded ourselves using a hand held recorder and others we have created and manipulated using audio software.  The soundscape is designed to be the sound of the building going through this process of change rather than a piece of music. 


Is there anything you’ve discovered about the marine life at The Deep you weren’t previously aware of?   

Each time we visit, we discover something new.  Last time we were there filming the jellyfish – a species that has lived in the oceans for over 500 million years. We learnt that there is currently an increase in jellyfish blooms – a sign that sea temperatures are rising.  The rise in sea temperature is also having an effect on the ice sheets in Antarctica and the melting of these is contributing to changes in salinity which in turn has an effect on sea life.  


How long will the projection be running for each evening? 

The projections will be looped to run continuously throughout the night with each cycle lasting approximately 10 minutes, so people can catch it during any time between the hours of 6pm and 10pm.     

Floe by Heinrich and Palmer is free to view and will run from 8-10 December at The Deep from 6pm-10pm.