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Life size seven foot Arapaima sculpture revealed

Bristolian artist Jamie Gillman’s latest commission has been revealed by Icon Films. The seven foot sculpture is a life size replica of the 250lb Arapaima that Jeremy Wade caught in 2013, for Season Six of River Monsters.

Native to the Amazon and Essequibo basins of South America, the Arapaima is one of the world’s largest fresh water fish. With teeth on their tongues and on the roof of their mouths their main diet is other fish, but have been known to attack humans, launching themselves into the air like a Polaris missile.

In 2002 Jeremy Wade was struck in the chest by a flying Arapaima, causing severe bruising to his heart. Arapaimas are air breathers and are thought to be evolutionarily unchanged since the Miocene epoch (which ended more than 5 million years ago). They are often called a ‘living fossil’.

Recycled and assembled from an eclectic mix of found materials, it includes approximately 500 Icon Films DVDs and CDs layered together to form scales. The fins and tail are made from a combination of an old red road sign, costume jewellery and a highly decorative Arabic metal golden tray. Together with flashes of red spray paint across the scales, this evokes the distinctive markings of the Arapaima. The fish’s scales are so strong, in the past they were used for armour by tribal people of South America.

Jamie said: “The idea of amour led to thinking about the head as a helmet, like that of a medieval knight. The head evolved into a collage of interwoven metal trays with a silvery plate for the gills, an old copper saucepan lid for a fin and a vintage broach lined with gemstones made a great finishing for the eye.”

The sculpture took about one month to complete. It has an underlying framework made from wood and flexible plastic. The DVDs and CDs can bend and were fixed using screws and silicone, working from left to right, with each new layer hiding the screws from the previous layer.

Jamie, a fine art and painting graduate from Brighton University, is already well known for Ursa, his 12 foot bear sculpture in the Bear Pit at St James Barton roundabout. The giant black and white bear was installed in 2013 with Arts Council funded following a commission from the Bear Pit Improvement Group and the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft.

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