'Fish hell', Steph Goodger

Painting of a large fishing and a lot of small fishes surrounding a building

Oil on canvas, 183 x 198.5 cm

The raft in Gericault’s painting ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ is reminiscent of a theatre stage. A monument can be a similar kind of space that formalizes action. The monument in Fish hell is inspired by the form and spirit of Gericault’s raft.

But where in Gericault’s painting there is hope of rescue, in Fish hell there is perpetual struggle and doom. The rescue ship in the distance is replaced by a leviathan, powering into view from above. When a hero such as Jonah in the Bible or Ahab in ‘Moby Dick’ falls victim to a leviathan it signifies the inescapable power of god or fate.

The actual raft of the Medusa was circled by sharks. In Fish hell, space is inverted and transformed by the fish swimming above and around the monument. Liquid space and its inhabitants make a new world from old events. Fish hell as a mythological place has commandeered history and absorbed it as its own.

Fish hell aims to create a point of reference in the relationship between the inner drama on the solid raft-monument and the ever-moving, fluctuating waterworld surrounding. It strives for symbiosis between philosophical or psychological content and formal qualities. As a mythology, it aims to suggest that it is only one part of something much larger…


Steph Goodger was born in Kent in 1974. She studied at Kent Institute of Art and Design 1991-92, Surrey Institute of Art and Design 1992-95 and the University of Brighton 1998-99. Her recent exhibitions include Ship of Fools Phoenix Gallery Brighton 2003, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2003 and Galerie de Roos van Tudor Leeuwarden 2003 and 2004.