By Puloma Ghosh
Boston, MA. – “Sjø,” sea in Norwegian, is Pippip Ferner’s exploration of the flora and fauna of the deep in detailed linear illustrations. The highlight of this exhibition in Copley Society of Art’s small back room Red Room Gallery is a sprawling, imaginative mural that, having been drawn directly onto the wall by Ferner in the days leading up to the exhibit, will disappear forever after its closure.
Ferner’s love for marine animals can be traced back to her interest in insects. At one point, she realized that many of the ones she was most interested in came from the sea, and followed them down there to discover an entire world. Several years ago she spent time on a marine biology research vessel and found inspiration for a whole body of work.
“All these creatures fascinate me. They are all important and they all have these shapes and colors,” Ferner explained. “Historically, scientists always brought artists on field trips to document, which photography has sort of taken over, but we can be inspired and we can share the knowledge of the ocean in different ways. I can do it my imaginative way and they do it the factual way.”
This crossover of the scientific and the artistic is apparent in all her work. “Urchin Anatomy” is the inside of an urchin. While it has all the body parts, it takes liberties in preciseness and scientific accuracy in favor of aesthetics and bold line work. “All the elements are in there somehow but then again,” Ferner said. “I need to put myself in there. The more I look into them, the more complicated I can tell they are. These are tiny things and their systems are so fantastic.”
Nothing is more indicative of the way complex microscopic undersea systems function than Ferner’s mural. Done entirely in various-sized acrylic pens, every corner tells a different story. Familiar and fantastical creatures emerge from spiraling, coral and seaweed-like shapes.
Some have clear fish or squid-like appearances and some just the semblance of it. Bones, innards and tentacles spill out from solid shapes like the paint spilling out from the tip of her pen. The piece is entirely improvisational, with Ferner building on her drawings bit by bit as she makes her way across the wall.
“Things just grow,” Ferner said. “I had some idea of what to do, but no complete plan. I think that’s part of the fun, to be surprised. I wanted everything to be integrated with each other. The smallest ones will sit on top of the larger ones, and they all sit on each other and make use of each other.”
The different shapes and varied line thickness in the mural takes the eye on a journey across the wall in the same way that Ferner’s pen took a journey across it as she created the work.
“If I would try to explain this in one sentence,” Ferner said as she surveyed the wall, stepping back to view the whole image in the small space, “It’s a cross-section of a reef, and everything on a reef is probably represented here. So if you snorkel, you’ll meet them all.”
“Sjø” gives us the ability to go on a fantastical underwater adventure without having to get wet, taking a tour of the creatures that live inside the seascape of Ferner’s imagination. A detailed and charming collection, “Sjø” captures the wonders of the sea while putting a unique twist on its already unique inhabitants.
(“Pippip Ferner: Sjø” is on view in the Red Room Gallery of the Copley Society of Art, 158 Newbury Street, Boston from July 10 through August 20; the galley is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sunday from noon–5 p.m. For more information, call (617) 536-5049.)