Simferopolis hosting an exhibit of underwater painting, organized by Kyiv-based diving center “Katran.” The “Central Museum Tavridy” exhibits the world’s largest painting executed under the sea. It was created in August 2011 by the artists of underwater painting school “Art Gallery Katran” at 14-meter depth not far from Foros, within the framework of the action “Let’s preserve the Black Sea historical underwater heritage on canvas.” The action ended in creation of an underwater painting sized 3 to 1.5 meters. The authors chose Rostov, a boat with an unusual tragic story, which sank near the Foros coast. In 1918 Rostov was heading from Batumi to Sevastopol and suffered attack from a German submarine. Not to surrender to the enemy, the captain resorted to cunning: hoisting the white flag, he continued to move towards Foros, hoping to get cover from the Foros artillery battery. But Germans discovered his intentions and commenced shelling the ship, and the captain decided to run the ship aground and fearlessly directed Rostov towards the rocks. Years passed, and the storms have pulled the ship from the coast down to water, wrecked it and scattered its debris over the sea floor. At the moment it is scattered over an area of about 500 square meters at depth of 12-15 meters.
“The artists were tasked with depicting the sunk ship and its separate parts on a large canvas,” the members of the Katran Club explained, “For this aim two underwater painters, Oleh Nebesny (Ukraine) and Denis Lotarev (Russia), have examined the ship for several days and painted about 10 sketches of its separate parts underwater, which enabled to recreate the whole picture of the shipwreck. During one day the artists changed the oxygen tanks three times, went again down below the surface of the sea to Rostov with a team of professional divers, and simultaneously worked on the picture. In 2012 within the framework of the same project the same artists painted a picture of the same size, depicting Jean Jaures, a ship that sank in 1941, near the Feodosia coast at 14-meter depth.”
The history of underwater painting goes back 100 years. Walter Howlison Pritchard was the first person who dared enter the mysterious underwater world with an easel and palette. Russian scientist Nikolay Nikolayevich Kondakov (1908-99) was the second enthusiast of underwater art, according to the data of historians of the diving club “Katran.” French Andre Laban, formerly a member of the team of Jacques-Yves Cousteau on the boat Calypso, is also known as an underwater artist. After 21 years of working in Cousteau’s team Laban continues to paint sketches in Mediterranean and Red seas. The artist has painted over 500 works. Belgian-born French artist Jamy Verheylewegen and Spaniard Alfonso Cruz also paint underwater, new diver artists are emerging in Indonesia, the US, Ukraine, and Russia.
Ukrainian divers on the basis of the diving club Katran were the first to undertake the steps on systematization of information and skills needed to paint underwater. Diver Volodymyr Avramenkov organized the world’s first school of underwater painting. Back in 2006 professional artist Nonna Kanarovska-Basanets became the first student of the school and was followed by Oleksandr Bilozor. The students had previously undergone a diving course and painted their first pictures with the diving center’s team. Professional artists Oleh Nebesny (Kyiv), Oksana Bilyk (Yalta), Denis Lotarev (Saint Petersburg) are graduates of the school, currently teaching there. The teachers and students of the school have painted about 200 paintings under the sea and already have some interesting findings and artistic decisions.