Throughout their history submarines have attracted artists as the subject of their work, and they have been the stimulus for art.
Until very recently intelligence collected by submarines included sketches made by observers who were making quick looks through the periscope. The submarine needed to remain undetected to complete its task and it could not afford to expose its periscope for any longer than a few seconds – certainly not long enough to attach and adjust a camera. The artist had to capture the subject instantaneously.
In this exhibit you can see examples of those two aspects of art and submarines:
- First, the work of Jo Darbyshire, a Western Australian artist who was inspired by the discovery of the wreck of HMAS AE1, and
- Then the work Bob McRae. Like the periscope artist, Bob was given very little time to capture his subject and there were aspects which for security reasons he was required to leave out
HMAS AE1 – constructed from the covers of books from the RUSI WA Library
Bob McRae Sketches
This body of work is the result of an informal artist residency by Robert McRae in two Collins class submarines and represents an artist’s view of the secret life of submarines, when he explored the machinery, scale, internal spaces and arrangements, the role of the crew at their various work stations, (man in the machine), and weaponry, all of which is currently classified.
The artist had a minder watching him work at all times and at times was stopped form working in certain parts of the sub. He was not allowed to photograph on board, except occasionally crew’s faces, with special permission from high ranking officers. So most of these sketches were done on board watching the crew at work. It is a rare and unique record of the Collins class submarines.