Where Water becomes Art, Art is… Water!

Translation by Cor. C


“The most common liquid is <Water> so it makes sense to me to think about it in this issue. When I was researching about <Water> as a trend in Arts, I red a lot contents, books, articles, essays; I watched documentaries and interviews to structure a full inventory of <Water> inspirations and references. At that moment, I digged into the precious reservoir of knowledge accumulated by UNESCO to satisfy my curiosity and deepen my understanding of Culture & Arts dynamics. It happens that I have found a gem and here I would like to honor the amazing work done by sharing with you the most inspiring written master piece to depict <Water> as an influential powerful trend in Arts.”

Water has always been a subject of works of art. From prehistoric times, humans depicted water as a wavy line, a stylized image that is easily recognizable and comprehensible. But also water fountains, whose beauty has been extolled by all world cultures, are undoubtedly works of art too. And come to think of it, art is also about… colours mixed in water, no?!?

In an area of the Sahara desert that incorporates the present day nations of Algeria, Niger and Mali, prehistoric peoples we know very little about painted and incised numerous marks on rocks that are believed by modern researchers to be symbols of water. This is perhaps an easy conclusion to reach, given that the same symbols are used to the present day. What we have are wavy lines, aligned horizontally or vertically, that are very similar to others found in many different parts of the world. Thousands of years ago, the regions of the Sahara that today are desert were once green and full of water, water that could fertilize the land and, therefore, “sacred”. Very probably, many of these stylized water images were also “sacred symbols” of this precious good, as well as being simply beautiful to look at. And humans invented others over time that we can all easily recognize, continually trying out new and original designs.

How else can we render the idea of water apart from waves? For example by drawing symbols such as water-drops, straight lines to represent rain or a shower, little bubbles for fizzy water, or we can use colours. The colours used to depict water in art are all shades of blue, ranging from azure to green, as in nature. Since we associate them with water, which is almost always cold in its natural state, so its colours are said to be “cold colours”. Do you know of any water symbols? A six-pointed star is the symbol of cold and the winter par excellence because it so perfectly recalls the form of a snow crystal. All of these symbols are widely found in contemporary art. But how did humans in the past draw and depict water? With lines and streaks in the works of medieval artists, by following the colours and proportions of the natural world in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Durer, Vermeer and other Renaissance artists. With dramatic colour contrasts in the works of Caravaggio, or interplays of reflected light in the work of Canaletto and Turner or in the en plein air paintings of Monet and the Impressionists.

Water themes (including snow and ice) flow throughout literature, poetry, fine art, theater, music, and film. Water images may be enduring, aesthetically appealing, or threatening: indeed water is often used as a metaphor for spiritual journey, metamorphosis, birth and rebirth, renewal, inspiration or even violence and death.

Water is indispensible for all kinds of visual art forms, from tempera, oil and spray to fresco and etching, and lent its name to the special techniques of watercolour and aquatint. As a theme, water has left an indelible mark on the world of painting, which in its turn has captured the strength, mutability, and transparence of water forever. In the late 16th century painting “Narcissus”, Caravaggio wanted the water to reflect and filter reality, confirming its fundamental role in pictorial works. The frozen water mirror, depicted in a famous painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and identified as the Flemish village Sint-Anne- Pede, carries an important message. Indeed the painter compares the threat that awaits the unwitting birds in the trap visible on the bottom right to the danger that lies equally in store for the unwary young skaters on the left. Danger is represented in both the slippery and subtle ice and in other risks that constantly accompany life. The antique Japanese art form of marbling, Suminagashi, means “ink floating”. It consists of drawing on water, creating abstract designs, which are then printed onto paper. The images that form are directly linked to the process of placing small quantities of ink onto the surface of water or other semi-fluid solution. Once this has been done, the artist completes the work by transferring it with great care and delicacy onto another solid but absorbent surface, usually paper or canvas. Techniques dependent on the use of water in the artistic process like the foregoing strongly influenced the work of Art Nouveau artists at the start of the twentieth century.

In1892, the great impressionist painter Claude Monet, having bought some land near his house in Giverny, a village in Northern France, deviated the course of the river Ru in order to create a pond there. This place became the centre of his human and artistic experience for a good twenty-five years. His artistry, closely connected to the movement of light reflected in the water, changed the history of western art forever. The many flowers and trees planted there offered him an extraordinary wealth of colors and luminosity. In a series of large paintings of the water lilies on the pond, Monet succeeded in pictorially rendering a passing a cloud, the lightest of breezes and the continual play of light reflected on the water.


Water and garden artifices

Water can be modeled and sculpted when it is frozen, or sprayed to create drawings and geometric shapes in the air. During the Renaissance, and in particular during the Baroque period, water jets and fountain games became popular. Thanks to artists like Bernini and Giambologna, many splendid monumental stone fountains, with depictions of the gods and protagonists of ancient mythology, were built.

The Arab architects who designed the baths and gardens of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, demonstrated great technical awareness and artistic sensitivity too in making the water look so sumptuous and magical. The wonderfully cool environment, created as a protection from the torrid summers of Andalusia, is reminiscent of caves and other structures of the natural world, with arches and vaulted ceilings, and sunlight which filters through making the waters in the elegant baths crystalline clear. The Cambodian Khmer architects at Angkor similarly expressed great acuity in building their splendid stone temples decorated with imposing statues like silent guardians of the waters, as well as in their surprising works of hydraulic engineering. Not forgetting the numerous Italian gems, mainly built between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries: gardens and fountains such as the triumphal fountains of Rome, the Boboli Gardens in Florence, the Royal Palace of Caserta and the Palladian villas of Veneto. In the latter, full-blown “special effects” were created which illuminated and made the water move through arches, columns, labyrinths, baths and sculpted fountains.


What is “Eco Art”?

There is a worldwide contemporary movement in environmental art, concerned with human relationship with the natural world. This may also be called Eco-Art, Art and Nature, or Restoration Art, and may extend to socially and politically oriented efforts known as “eco-activist art” and “environmental justice Eco Art.” Examples include Soul Salmon, an “art action” movement of Northwest American artists, businesses, institutions and tribes to protect native salmon, and artist Deborah Small’s painted porcelain brick art statement to preserve Mono Lake in California that led to a landmark public trust law case. Eco-Art was represented at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a call for artists around the world to devote their next artwork to an environmental issue.


Contemporary works of… ice!

It is possible to model and sculpt water in its frozen state. Naturally these are works of art that are not destined to last very long, but they are nonetheless of great emotional and visual impact, precisely because they are made of water. Sometimes modern artists deliberately melt their ice sculptures with warm air so as to produce startling effects of the work “in ruin” as it melts.

Today, however, water is mainly used for artistic installations: impermanent, short-lived works, which in a certain sense represent the modern evolution of sculpture. Installations are made up of media (sound, lights, smells) objects and expressive forms of various types, all set up in a given environment. Some of these, produced by the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson in New York, are artificial waterfalls, which were maintained in working order for almost all of 2008. The water fell from heights of 30 and 40 meters back into East River. Fish and other aquatic life forms were protected by water filtration through tanks suspended in the river. The installations worked with solar and hydraulic power and were designed to promote awareness of the environment, which must be protected in the interests of everyone.

Today, in Barcelona, Las Vegas and Dubai City, the most amazing and unique water shows can be seen, made by placing both rigid and flexible tubes that produce water jets and sprays onto horizontal and vertical surfaces. Inspired by Baroque examples, these fountains light up with sprays of water coloured by lights submerged in the basin. The water changes colour, direction and strength, and the swirls of water create the illusion of fireworks and laser beams. These water sculptures span various art forms, including music, which beats perfect time with the movements of the water. This “entertainment” in some way recalls the methods and intentions of Baroque art, a sort of art for art’s sake. It is provocative, based on a visual experience, but also creates a fresh awareness of the infinite that we can become part of by breaking out of solid confines, finally open towards the heavens.

Until last century, frozen ice was used by the Inuit and other populations of the polar regions to make igloos. In the gardens of modern houses, the rain becomes a spectacle in itself as it falls: gliding down glass, running fast between drains and gutters, and finally falling in into the collection tanks. The water of the sea, if we listen attentively, can… speak, sing and play! Did you know that?

One permanent installation of enormous impact is the marine organ built just a few years ago in the harbor of Zara, a Dalmation city on the Adriatic coast. The intensity of the movement of the sea waves is continually made into music through the organ reeds made to accompany this really stunning work. As we listen, we can tell whether the sea is speaking, laughing, suffering, crying or dying, we can perceive its moods. Each movement of the seawater is amplified thanks to the movement through specially designed pipes. You can hear the sea groan, whistle, rumble, expand and crash, through the echoes of the water movements, of high tides and storms. It truly is”water music”. In Scandinavia (and recently elsewhere too), inspired by the houses of Arctic hunters, there are hotels made entirely of ice during the winter period. Of course these are areas where the temperature is consistently near or below zero. Since it isn’t possible to switch on any heating, guests must wear very heavy clothing for insulation when sleeping because the beds too are made of frozen water. This, however, is a modern invention, with touristic and artistic ends, in which those commodities that have always inspired humans in building their homes are non-existent!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s House on the falls is an example of the perfect fusion of human construction in nature without altering the environmental and aesthetic balance. The great American architect displayed a profound awareness of hydraulic science, inventing as he did an architectural structure built only with local materials, like stone and wood, creating a unique union with water and its movements thanks to modern building techniques. Wright created an asymmetric building, which represents what we might call the natural “disorder” of the place, and fully embodies its main qualities.

Where Water becomes Art, Art is… Water!

2014 07 Holga 2-11  


“最普遍的液體是<水> 所以這對我來說在這一期裡面是個可以探討的議題。當我搜尋有關於<水>”為藝術的走向時,我讀了很多相關內容、文章、書籍、以及論文;觀賞了相關紀錄片跟採訪,來建構一個以<水>為靈感和參考文獻的完整清單。在那一刻,我從聯合國教科文獻組織的知識寶庫中挖掘,以滿足我的好奇心以及深化我對文化跟藝術動態的理解。在這裡我發現了璀璨的寶石,並且我想要對這份驚人的榮耀至上我的敬意,與你們一同分享最鼓舞人心的書面寫作,它以描繪<水>來作為藝術裡具有強大影響力的潮流。”





例如透過繪製符號,像是水-滴,直線來表示下雨或者淋浴,小氣泡代表碳酸水,或者我們可以使用顏色。在藝術裡被用來描繪水的顏色盡是不同的藍色,如同在自然界中 從蔚藍到綠色。因為我們將它與水來做聯想,在自然狀態下它的狀態幾乎總是冷的,所以它的顏色被認為是”冷色調”。你知道任何有關水的符號嗎?六角星是代表冷冽的象徵,以及冬季的出類拔萃,因為它的形狀如此完美的令人憶起雪的結晶。所有這些符號廣泛的存在當代藝術中。但 在過去 人類如何繪製即呈現水呢?隨著中世紀藝術家使用以線條和斑紋在作品中,藉著欣賞Leonardo da Vinci、Durer、Vermeer以及其他文藝復興時期的藝術家以自然界中的顏色和比例下所創作的繪畫,跟隨著Caravaggio作品裡戲劇色彩的對比,或者欣賞Canaletto跟Turner創作裡反射光的相互作用,或者法國十九世紀印象畫派中 外光派的Monet以及其他印象派畫家的創作。水的主題(包括了雪跟冰)流串在文學、詩歌、美術、戲劇、音樂和電影當中。水的圖像可能源遠流長、美觀、或者具有威脅性:的確,水經常被用來喻為精神之旅、生物變態、誕生以及重生、復興、啟發又甚至是暴力和死亡的隱喻。

在各類的視覺藝術形式中 水是必不可少的要素,從蛋彩畫、油畫跟噴畫到壁畫和蝕刻,並借其名給具特殊技巧的水彩畫跟凹版腐蝕製版法來作應用。作為一個主題,在繪畫的世界裡 水已經留下了不可磨滅的印記,這也反證了其實力、可變性以及水永遠的透明度。16世紀晚期作品” Narcissus(水仙)”, Caravaggio想以水來做為反射以及過濾現實,來確認其在繪畫作品裡的基礎性應用角色。結凍的水鏡,由老彼得Pieter Bruegel the Elder所繪製,並且被確認鑑定為弗拉芒(Flemish)村Sint-Anne- Pede,其作品攜帶了一則重要訊息,事實上 畫家把作品中等待的威脅與不知情的鳥兒這一幕─於右下角清楚可見,與對於處在店鋪內不知情的滑冰者即將面對的同等的危險來相做比較。危險同時代表了兩種狀態,滑溜的以及詭秘的冰,和其他不斷陪伴在生活中會出現的風險。古董日本藝術形式的大理石紋加工法,Suminagashi,意思是”浮動的墨”。創作過程中創作者必須堅持不斷在水上進行繪畫,創造抽象的設計,然後再將它們印刷到紙上。其所形成的圖像與創作過程中,在創作水之表面配與地少量地墨水或其他半流體溶液,兩者之間有很絕對的關聯性。一旦第一階段完成,藝術家會非常的小心以及透過技巧 將其轉換至另一個固體但可被吸收的表面,通常會是紙張或者畫布。其技巧仰賴於創作藝術過程中所使用的水,上述的創作形式,在二十世紀開始,強烈地影響了新藝術風格時期的藝術家作品。

在1892年,偉大的印象派畫家Claude Monet,在Giverny(吉維尼)的家裡附近他買了一些土地,其地位在法國北部的一個村莊,偏離茹河(river Ru)的軌道,在那來建造一座池塘。這個地方帶給他一段人與藝術關係間的良好二十五年。他的藝術性,緊密連結光影倒映在水中的運動,因此永遠改變了西方世界的藝術史。此地種植了許多花草樹木,提供他顏色和亮度的非凡財富。在一系列有著睡蓮的池塘巨畫中,Monet成功地以形象渲染一塊漂泊的雲朵、最輕柔的微風以及光影連續倒映在水面上的片段。




在西班牙的格拉納達(Granada, Spain)有位阿拉伯建築師設計了阿罕布拉(Alhambra)的浴場以及花園,透過水呈現出的華麗和神奇,它展現出了完美的工藝技術以及同時對藝術的敏感度。其剛剛好的涼爽環境,為安達盧西亞(Andalusia)炎熱的夏天創造出一個保護罩,讓人聯想起洞穴與其他自然界的構造,有拱門和拱型天花板,陽光透過天花板撒下,映照在優雅浴池中使的水面像結晶一般的清澈。位於吳哥(Angkor)柬埔寨高棉的建築師,同樣展現了對建鑿的強大敏銳度,透過建造自己輝煌的石廟,以氣勢不凡的雕像做裝飾,就像是沉默的水之守護者,他們在水利工程方面同時也展示了驚人的成果。當然 也別忘了眾多在義大利的寶石,它們主要建造在十六到十八世紀之間: 有花園和噴泉,如羅馬的凱旋噴泉,佛羅倫薩的Boboli花園,卡塞塔(Caserta)皇宮,和威尼托(Veneto)的帕拉第奧式(Palladian)別墅。近年來,全面”特效”問世,其中使用照明技巧使得水流穿梭在拱門、立柱、迷宮、浴池和雕塑噴泉間。

什麼是”生態藝術(Eco Art)”?

在環境藝術裡 有一個世界性的當代運動,關注於人類與自然界的關係。這也可以被稱為生態藝術、藝術跟大自然、或者藝術復興,並且可以延伸到社會和政治導向的努力,被稱為”生態提倡藝術(eco-activist art)”跟”環境正義生態藝術(environmental justice Eco Art)”。例子包括了作品:鮭魚的靈魂(Soul Salmon),為了保護原生鮭魚,這是美國西北部的藝術家、企業家、機構以及部落們所提倡的一項”藝術行動”的運動,以及藝術家Deborah Small所繪製在瓷磚瓦片上的藝術聲明是為了要保護位於加州的莫諾湖(Mono Lake),此項藝術行動牽扯到一項具有里程碑意義的公眾信任的法案。生態藝術在2002年,於位在南非的約翰尼斯堡舉行的世界高峰會談上為可持續發展(Sustainable Development)之項目擔任代表,呼籲全世界的藝術家為環境問題投入他們的下一個作品。


當水在結凍狀態時,它被塑造以及雕刻的可能性是存在地。當然這些藝術作品都是注定不能存在很長的一段時間,但正因為它們是水做的,才能仍然具有如此偉大的情感和視覺衝擊力。有時候,現代藝術家故意用暖空氣融化他們創作的冰雕,在其融化的階段 創造驚人的”使廢墟”效果。

然而,在今日,水主要用於藝術裝置: 不持久的、暫時性的作品上面,這在一定的意義上代表了現代雕塑的演變。裝置是由各種類型的表現形式以及媒體(聲效、光效、氣味)所組成,並設定在既定的環境之下。其中有一些,由在紐約的丹麥藝術家OlafurEliasson所建造,他幾乎花了整個2008年整年的工作日完成。水從高約30米到40米的高度落下,流回至東河(East River)。魚類和其他水中生物受到水面過濾的保護流經蓄水池然後漂浮至河中。該裝置具有太陽能和液壓動力,並且它被設計的目的是為了要促進對環境保護的意識,保護到每一個生在地球上的生物的利益。

今日,在巴塞隆納、拉斯維加斯跟杜拜,你可以看到最令人驚奇和獨特的水上表演,它們以堅固的以及具有彈性的管道來製作噴水器,並灑向水平以及垂直的表面。受到巴洛克例子的啟發,這些噴泉被具有色彩的灑水噴柱點亮,漸漸隱沒在水池中。水柱會改變色彩、方向、和強度,水柱產生的漩渦創造了煙火和激效光束的錯覺。這些水柱雕塑跨越了各種藝術形式,包括音樂,其中拍子與水柱的韻律配合的完美無缺。這種”娛樂”在某一程度上讓人想起巴洛克藝術的方法和含意,一種為藝術而藝術的典故。基於視覺上的體驗 這是具有挑釁意味的藝術,但也創造了一種無限的新意識,那是身為觀眾的我們也能成為的一部分,透過打破固體框架,終於打開那扇通往天堂的大門。

直到上個世紀,結凍的冰被因紐特人(Inuit)和極地地區的其他族群用來建造冰屋(igloos)。在現代住宅的花園裡,雨水 當它滑落時便成了奇觀本身: 隨著玻璃滑下,快速流入下水道和排水溝之間,終於 落入用來集水的蓄水池。海洋的雨水,如果我們仔細傾聽,它…能說、學、逗、唱呢!你知道嗎?


弗蘭克·勞埃德·賴特(Frank Lloyd Wright)建造在瀑布上的房子,是一個人類建築與大自然完美融合的例子,它不透過修改去調整環境和審美藝術間的平衡。這個偉大的美國建築師,展示了他對液壓科學的深刻知識,發明他的建築結構並選用當地材料建成,像是石頭和木材,多謝當代建築的傑出技術,創造了水跟它本身韻律間的完美結合。賴特創造了一個非對稱的建築,在此地 它描繪出我們可能會稱它為自然”失調(disorder)”的象徵意義,與此同時它也充分展現了其主要的建築特性。


2014 07 Holga 2-9