Paintings of the sea and fishing boats were central to Bellany’s oeuvre. This picture is a development from earlier paintings of fishermen holding up skate, with the features of the fish giving voice to the men’s emotions. However, this image is more sinister due to the presence of the skeletal figure, transforming the skate into mouthpieces of the dead in general, and of those who have died at sea. Bellany’s paintings are intimately connected with the human figure, and particularly with his own life. However, he often used animals to reflect different aspects of human nature. Bellany underwent several personal crises during the 1980s, which are reflected in the choice of harrowing subject matter and the agitated, expressive brushwork found in his paintings at this time.