Art and Ancient Mariners
By Jack Feuer, Photos by Fletcher Tujunga
Published Jul 1, 2010 10:00 AM
British businessman Philip Beale is determined to prove that the ancient Phoenicians, not the Portuguese, were the first seagoing culture to sail around Africa, and that they did it two millennia before the Europeans — and he's got a Bruin on board to help him do it.
Beale built an authentic, down-to-the-actual-wood replica of a 6th-century B.C. galley called Phoenicia, and in late 2008 set sail from Arwad, an ancient Syrian island known for, among other things, boatmaking. But along with the usual — or in this case, unusual — complement of crew, Beale brought another team member aboard: "expedition artist" Danielle Eubank '91, M.F.A. '94.
Phoenicia is retracing the route that Greek historian Herodotus reports Phoenician sailors took to circumnavigate the continent. Eubank's paintings of the "light, depth, current and reflections of buildings and boats on the surface of the water," she explains, "tell a story about the culture at the [sites where the boat visits]."
Eubank has been on and off Phoenicia several times since it launched, "at a port of call doing the paintings." But while on the boat, she pulls her weight as just another crew member, "minding the helm and cooking."
It's the second sailing expedition for Eubank, who also joined Beale a few years ago for six months aboard the Borobudur, another scrupulously accurate wooden replica, this time of an 8th-century Indonesian trading boat.
The intrepid Bruin didn't start out seeking a life on the sea. "I can assure you, I'm no sailor," she admits. "At the time [she began her career as an expedition artist], I was more interested in technology."
But now, Eubank says, "I love painting water for a lot of reasons. It's fun and quite rewarding creatively; water looks very different depending on where in the world you are … [and] painting water is so hard. It's always moving; you can't slow it down."
Neither does Eubank, who at press time was back on Phoenicia, which she rejoined in Gibraltar. By the end of the year, though, the adventure will end where it began, in Arwad. Then the galley sails to London, where Eubank was living and painting when Beale first found her — and where her Phoenicia paintings will be exhibited.
She says she's game for another expedition-artist gig. "Definitely," concludes Eubank. "I plan on painting water for a lot longer."
To see more of Eubank's work, visit www.danielleeubank.com.