Monira Al Qadiri’s new public sculpture, DEVONIAN, installed on the Riverside Terrace of the Southbank Centre in London, is a large, circular work composed of thin, semi-transparent images of ancient sea creatures on a solid base of ocean blue. The work’s title refers to the classification of a period of life and rock formation that occurred nearly 400 million years ago. The significance of the Devonian era for the artist is both its specificity to nearby Devon, England – for which the period is named – and the fact that the deposits of the animals that once populated the oceans in the Devonian are today used in petroleum production, creating both plastic and fuel by-products.
Also referred to as “The Age of Fish”, the Devonian represents a period when thousands of species of fish, crustaceans, shellfish, and marine plants thrived. Al Qadiri’s sculpture pays homage to the life that was instrumental in creating the current economies of oil-based production by presenting examples of these creatures oriented vertically as if rising from the sediments of the Earth beneath the oceans that now house their remains. Installed in proximity to the water, the oil-like sheen of their construction references both the future fate of these giant organisms as well as their past. DEVONIAN highlights the fragile nature of our dependence on fossil fuels, building connections between past and present, and offering a potential space for the memory of these prehistoric beings in our collective future.
DEVONIAN is the second of three annual commissions presented by the Hayward Gallery in partnership with the Bagri Foundation to bring new public art commissions by artists from or inspired by Asia and its diaspora to the Southbank Centre.
Supported by the Bagri Foundation.

© Images Rob Harris



Monira Al Qadiri (b. 1983) is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal and educated in Japan. Spanning sculpture, installation, film, and performance, Al Qadiri’s multifaceted practice is based on research into the cultural histories of the Gulf region. Her interpretation of the Gulf’s so-called “petro-culture” is manifested through speculative scenarios that take inspiration from science fiction, autobiography, traditional practices, and pop culture, resulting in uncanny and covertly subversive works that destabilize mythologies of statecraft and modernization as well as traditional notions of gender. Tracing the delicate ecologies threate...
Read more