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170405 Drawn to Water v1

Artist Roger Swainston draws underwater. Credit: Ed Cardwell.

ROGER SWAINSTON: DRAWN TO WATER follows remarkable Fremantle artist Roger Swainston as he painstakingly studies the life of the world’s largest fringe reef, the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.  In his drive to understand what is going on beneath the surface, he developed a way of literally drawing underwater.

Swainston blurs the line between art and science and is now in his fifteenth year of a 20 year project studying and producing incredibly detailed drawing of the area’s underwater life.  Swainston is not only a qualified Zoologist, but also a self taught artist.

For six weeks of each year, Swainston bases himself in Coral Bay and spends each day drawing underwater.

The half-hour biopic follows Swainston’s process from start to finish in the lead up to an event where he exhibits for the first time his raw graphite reef drawings made underwater.

Producer, director and writer Brendan Hutchens of VAM Media said, “It was back at Roger’s campsite art studio [in Coral Bay] where things really came together. There were hours and hours of shading and drawing and looking at photos. We became part of the process and felt privileged to gain such an insight to Roger’s incredible work and his passion for the conservation of our oceans.”

Swainston is known for his detail and resolve through decades of painting fish for guides and museums around the world and for his encyclopedia Swainston’s Fishes of Australia. His meticulous detail and beauty conveys a story which until now, has not been told to an Australian audience, although he has many fans including author Tim Winton who appears in the film.

In France Swainston’s work is highly regarded. He’s led expeditions around the world and worked for decades with the Natural History Museum of France on exhibitions that bring with them great interest from the public and media. Four documentaries have been made about his work by French producers while at home in Australia he remains relatively unknown.

“Roger’s work is of increasing importance during a time where we are grappling with the reality of the impact of climate change, overfishing and ocean pollution. Roger is determined to represent the beauty of life underwater so that we are driven to protect it,” said Hutchens.

The production team that made the journey to Coral Bay was small, consisting of Hutchens and Director of Photography Jim Frater ACS, who were joined by local underwater cinematographer Ed Cardwell who captured Swainston at work beneath the water.

ROGER SWAINSTON: DRAWN TO WATER will air as part of ABC Arts’ Creative series on Tuesday, 11 April at 10:00pm and then will be available on iView.

ROGER SWAINSTON: DRAWN TO WATER was developed and produced with the assistance of Screenwest and Lotterywest.