Just off the shore of the Loire estuary outside of Nantes, France, a slithering serpent rises from the water. However, it is not what it seems. Although it is very life-like, the impressive Serpent d'océan, which stands at an impressive 130 meters, was completed in 2012 by French Chinese contemporary artist Huang Yong Ping.
Huang Yong Ping was a prominent figure in the 1980s Chinese avant-garde movement and had many of his works banned by the Chinese government. However, in 1989, Yong Ping moved to France, where he became a naturalised French citizen. He often addresses identity and the mixing of different cultures in his work, so it's no surprise to see the artist introducing an animal related to Chinese mythology to Europe.
The magnificent Serpent d'océan statue is part of the Estuaire permanent public art collection along its 37 miles. Not only has the statue been planned out to perfection, but its location is perfect too.
The aluminium skeleton of the serpent is continually covered and uncovered by the tides of the ocean as it sits in its incredible location. The statue is displayed as the water level decreases, revealing its archaeological remains. But that is not the only reason this statue is so well thought out and the placement so unique. The curving shape of the serpent's spine mirrors the form of the nearby Saint-Nazaire bridge, which link and harmonise the creature with its surroundings.
The work continually reveals itself in different guises depending on the time of day, both due to the changing tide and the light's reflection. The artwork is also given more meaning over time as algae begin clinging to its surface, showing the cycle of life and nature.
For his heralded Empires exhibition, Yong Ping expanded on the theme in 2016, where he created an even larger serpent measuring 240 meters. The exhibit was part of the Monumenta series at the Grand Palais in Paris. The Chinese artist was the last of the Monumenta exhibitions. In this case, his serpent was surrounded by 305 shipping containers as part of a commentary on world trade.