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Contemporary art

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The Sea of Untold Stories II



Desmond Lazaro

Australia, India, England

1968 -


The indigo surface, pure blue, seems to go on forever… The golden sea, where each individual wave, a brushstroke, is painted as a meditation, a meditation on grief, loss, having to face what it actually feels like to lose someone, be it a nameless migrant or family member.
– Desmond Lazaro

The Sea of Untold Stories was created in the pichhavai tradition of devotional painting on cloth. It is an emotional response to the plight of migrants making perilous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea.
The shamsa (sunburst) at the centre emulates a symbol on the passport that Lazaro’s grandfather used for his journey from Burma (now Myanmar) to London in the 1950s. The motif is also often found in the pages of the Koran. The figures below – some carrying suitcases and plastic bags – are drops of water in a vast and overwhelming sea of gold. Stars guide those crossing oceans, deserts and continents in the quest for a better life. One of the figures steadily transcends this world, gradually morphing into a star. Inspired by the ancient Chinese Dunhuang Star Atlas, and the Sanskrit manuscript 'Jewel of the essence of all sciences' (c1840), Lazaro has turned the grief of unimaginable loss into the light of transcendental hope.




Media category


Materials used

natural pigments, indigo-dyed cotton cloth, gold leaf


120.0 x 600.0 cm


Lawrence Hinchliffe Bequest Fund 2019

Accession number


Artist information

Desmond Lazaro

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history