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MAR-ECO paintings

[October 03] Well-known Norwegian painter Ørnulf Opdahl has contributed four paintings to be exhibited in Washington at the CoML launching, 23 October.

Opdahl has been invited to join the international marine research project, MAR-ECO. Together with MAR-ECO scientists, he will experience a new inspirational challenge in the savage landscapes and mysteries of the deep waters around the northern portion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Summer 2004, Opdahl will sail with the team of MAR-ECO researchers for two months aboard the Norwegian research vessel the G.O. Sars. Already he is thinking about what kind of inspiration the deep ocean setting might contain, with its sudden vast aggregations of sea creatures and mysterious dark, empty spaces and, of course, the possibility of unknown discoveries. In thinking about using the mid-Atlantic Ridge for artistic inspiration, Opdahl says that it is almost impossible to imagine oneself in relationship to it.

Opdahl reminisces. "I remember the first time that I understood that there are two different worlds: above the ocean surface and below. I had taken a job as a cod fisherman for few months. It was amazing how the fishermen knew all about the variability in the conditions under the water just as well as they did above, maybe even better. It demonstrated to me that there was a whole new world to discover, concealed in the depths. It was a daunting and exciting discovery."
The MAR-ECO cruise of 2004 will provide Opdahl with many such experiences, he feels. He has seen pictures and images of the fantastic creatures that have already been discovered at 2-3000m deep. He is beginning to meet with researchers who are planning the MAR-ECO expedition. It is very likely that new deep-sea species will be discovered during the cruise. Opdahl is looking forward to being a part of the team.

It is easy to get carried away with Opdahl's enthusiasm for the project. He spoke about his feelings of camaraderie with the scientists. "We base our work on knowledge, but we also need to know something about presentation, and, in this case, possibilities. This is all critically important when you are trying to find out about new things. 
Art and science," says Opdahl, "can greatly benefit each other. I can, most naturally, contribute to the communication and public outreach side of the project. MAR-ECO is a kind of adventure or exploration - and art can help express this. Scientific articles often do not have this dimension."

In the past it was standard for an artist to accompany scientific expeditions. They did not have digital cameras or other photographic equipment! Opdahl says that he was impressed with the quality of the work by the artists that accompanied the last great marine explorers of nearly one hundred years ago.

"Summer 2004," says Opdahl, "I will have my laptop and digital camera as well as my paints and sketching equipment! Although I am a bit of an "old timer", I do recognise that it is a great help to be able to take pictures in situ that can be re-worked at home."

Art and Science - it will be exciting to see the results of this unique MAR-ECO collaboration!

Ørnulf Opdahl, photographs by Silje Gripsrud

Some examples of Opdahl's paintings

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