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Artist’s immersive wave of 3,000 fish is a striking work of art with a serious message

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The visit of the Natural History Museum’s Dippy the Diplodocus cast to Norwich Cathedral aims to spark conversations about our planet and how we can protect it for the future, and Norfolk-based artist Mark Reed’s stunning installation Your Waves Go Over Me puts the spotlight on the importance of water through the ages, from the time of dinosaurs right through to the modern day and beyond.

The title of the sculpture is inspired by a quotation taken from the Psalms (42.9) – ‘All thy waves and storms are gone over me’ – a reference to how, while the Bible and modern science differ about many things, they are in entire agreement that life as we know it emerged from water.

Ahead of seeing Dippy the dinosaur in the Nave, visitors to the Cathedral are invited to explore Mr Reed’s stunning wave of shimmering metal fish, each one individually made in Mr Reed’s studio in Ashill, near Thetford.

A team of volunteers, including students from Norwich University of the Arts, spent a week carefully weaving the wave of iridescent fish together in the Hostry, and the result is a spectacular work of art with a serious message.

On first look, the striking shoal of fish is an installation of great beauty but, on closer inspection, litter can be seen scattered among the fish – a stark reminder of the damage currently being done to our planet and how we must all do our bit to help stop this for the future.

Mr Reed said: “Walking through the monumental breaking wave, visitors move backwards in time from the modern day with its pollution and plastics, past flotsam and jetsam of past eras including Gingko branches, cast bronze mice and bronze Ammonites until moving through the Ichthys fish to the Cathedral and ultimately Jurassic Dippy.

“The work invites the viewer to think about the central themes inherent in both the Dippy exhibition and the venue in which it is held. The work is a meditation of life on earth, from its origins in the very distant past to Dippy’s time and our own day, and a reminder of the total dependence all life on this planet has on the generative powers of water.

“Water is intrinsic to all life on earth and the wave sculpture symbolises both its life sustaining powers and the potentially destructive forces that water can unleash, especially when combined with increasingly threatening manmade climate chaos.”

It is with this in mind that Mr Reed designed and constructed the piece. Every component of the work will be re-used after the end of the exhibition, so the wave sculpture will be transformed into other sculptures at the studio. The individual fish are also available for visitors to purchase and all other components have been loaned by generous local companies.

Sculpting in metal, primarily in bronze, forged steel, stainless steel, and aluminium has been a passion of Mr Reed’s since 1995 and his sculptures are deeply rooted in themes of nature and his place within it, science, family and the passage of time. His work can be found in collections around the world, and he has exhibited extensively at Chelsea Flower Show and in sculpture parks and exhibitions throughout the UK and USA.

Reflecting on his latest work in Norwich Cathedral’s Hostry, Mr Reed said: “It’s so great to have a sculpture in such a stunning setting, so much of my work has been transported to the US and Middle East and I love having a piece here in Norfolk, in the community that shapes me. It was a marvellous atmosphere working with a great team of volunteers from the Cathedral and Norwich University of the Arts, especially after the recent Covid lockdowns.”

As well as experiencing the wave sculpture in the Cathedral’s Hostry, people are also able to buy the fish at the exhibition to display in their own homes and gardens. More details about buying the fish are available online.

The lighting for Your Waves Go Over Me has been kindly sponsored by Viking Stage Lighting and other elements used in the construction of the piece have been loaned by Tufts of Bradenham.

Your Waves Go Over Me is part of the Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure exhibition which is at Norwich Cathedral until 30 October 2021.

Norwich is the final stop on Dippy’s eight-venue tour and the exhibition has been brought to Norwich Cathedral and visitors across the UK by the Natural History Museum in partnership with the Garfield Weston Foundation and supported by Dell EMC and Williams & Hill. Barratt and Cooke is the regional sponsor for the exhibition.