Around 80 species of sea fish species are fished in the seas around the UK. While we the public are familiar with cod, haddock or skate we are less familiar with the other species. We rarely see how they appear in their natural states. Fish are not seen; they are in sea. Their lives, their forms, and their realities; these are mysterious to us.

The Framed Fish Project was set up in March 2019 by Rebecca Jeffree, a policy advisor on international fisheries interested in art as a tool for the appreciation of the world’s complexity. The project’s main aim is to increase awareness of the variety of life in British seas through the act of drawing or painting. But it is also an exploration of what it is to really observe, and what that means for how we understand the world when we are not observant.

Every week after work, a small group of civil servants gather to create portraits of each of the commercial finfish and shellfish species caught in UK waters. We work from available 2D images. The act of expression and quiet observation through artistic practice is a personal one. But together we have created a place to discover skills we thought we never had, to switch off from frenzied work, and to alter and enrich our perspectives.

Thanks to the Linnean Society of London, Rebecca Jewell and Sandy Ross Sykes for arranging some very special and enriching fish art classes for us; thanks also to the Natural History Museum for supplying some real fish models to draw from in class.

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