“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean.” Arthur C. Clarke
Life on earth originated from and is sustained by water which is fundamental to cell formation in all life forms. The unique molecular structure of water enables it’s ability to condense, flow, evaporate and freeze and these properties have shaped the climate and environments of the earth.
Most of the water on the planet is held in the oceans, the temperature of which determines climatic circulation – now destabilized by climate change leading to the increased frequency of storms, floods desertification and droughts. Only one percent of global fresh water is easily accessible and its increasingly erratic distribution coupled with growing populations has led to a clean water crisis in much of the world.
Scientists used to think that the original water on earth evaporated into space and the Earth’s oceans formed sometime later, when icy comets hit the planet. However, new research suggests that a reservoir of water, possibly three times the volume of water on the surface is trapped inside rock in the Earth’s mantle, more than 400 miles below the surface. Called ringwoodite, the rock is bright blue and is only formed at high temperature and pressure in the mantle.
So, it now appears that the water cycle involves more than just the water that circulates between the atmosphere, oceans, and surface waters. It extends deep into the Earth’s interior as the oceanic crust slides under adjoining plates and sinks into the mantle, carrying water with it. This may explain the mystery of why the volume of the oceans has remained constant
I am keen to explore the science and cultural significance of water in ways which are powerful and informed – if not overtly illustrative, so am developing unique strategies to explore the physical and conceptual relationships between water as subject and water as medium. This also reconnects to the fascination of playing with water as a child, to exploring its versatility and beauty and I strive to inscribe the residual attributes of discovery and wonder in the work.
By standing back from the pictorial, radically reducing the parameters and exploring the fundamental properties of the watercolor media, it is possible to record and imprint some of the natural processes and forces involved. Even then, the variables remain such that no two paintings can reproduce the same results; design, chance and intuition continue to play their part.
Despite the huge advances in computer modeling and the imaging of the earth and other planetary systems, I hope this painstakingly prepared work demonstrates a role for a traditional media like watercolour in evoking complex interrelationships and processes.
The world and the work constantly throw up tangential preoccupations which now include the impact of Covid-19 and global interdependence.
The other crucial component of the work is music – at least I want it to be musical. To be successful a painting has to have flow, narrative and balance. Drive, harmony, rhythm and variation are qualities I try to instill in the work. A painting can become complex and exciting, with drama and contrast only by keeping it simple, or apparently so.
‘It is only slightly overstating the case to say that physics is the study of symmetry.’ Philip Anderson, Nobel laureate.
Although these paintings appear symmetrical and controlled, the small variations occurring within them are analogous with variation in nature – and to what Japanese aesthetics may refer to as wabi-sabi. These organic characteristics and the inherent properties of interdependence are the persistent concerns of the work. Ultimately, the aim is to make contemplative work – which can reward familiarity but continues to retain a sense of mystery commensurate with the mysterious physics of water itself.
The paintings are made with maximum lightfast, high quality, hand ground non-toxic mineral pigments and natural mediums.
The bespoke handmade framing by a leading UK framer is to archival and museum standards with 100% cotton conservation mounts and backing boards.
ART OF WATER V, a James May Gallery exhibition on Artsy from May 6th to July 31st 2022.
Post Covid-19 Era. Independent & Image Art Space, Chongqing, China.