Water Shadows, is a new body of work, an installation of sculptures that emanate sound, field recordings of watery places of personal and community significance in the Georgian Triangle area that I have made over the past year. As one moves through the dreamlike sculptural landscape, the unique sound ecology of each recording site is experienced as one continuous flow. The raw recordings of both natural and machine-made sounds flow into each other, dissolving boundaries. Blending the raw beauty of nature with the architectural forms of the ‘water temples’, Water Shadows becomes a sanctuary of sorts, a place of gathering, a place to Be and the fertile ground for what is Becoming.
Water Shadows was inspired by an experience I had with the element water in the deep silence of winter. Mysterious ice patterns appeared on my studio window, intricate lace patterns that remained for the duration of the season. In its own organic, language without words, water clearly had a voice. Not only did the ice patterns look like ‘water temples’, they were strangely akin to the drawings I had been working on since the fall, that were pinned next to it on the studio wall. I was so intrigued by this experience with water literally knocking on my window, that I felt compelled to give it a broader voice through my art. I investigated ‘water temples’ further and was delighted to discover a whole ancient system of ‘water temples’ in Bali (called subaks) protected by UNESCO. To quote-“The cultural landscape of Bali consists of five rice terraces and their water temples that cover 19,500 ha. The temples are the focus of a co-operative water management system of canals and weirs, know as subaks, that date back to the 9th century…The subak reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of spirit, the human world and nature. The subak system of democratic and egalitarian farming practices has enabled the Balinese to become the most prolific rice growers in the archipelago despite the challenge of supporting a dense population…Subak components also include the forests that protect the water supply…” With root-systems and networks of all kinds being a main feature in my sculptural language already, this prompting from water to create new pathways for its preservation and celebration is a great honour for me. I made my first field recording for this project here on my land in Walters Falls where I recorded my creek (and a cicada!), a tributary of the Big Head River. The creek is a place of calm for me where I often go to find inspiration. Interestingly, this land where I live within the Georgian Triangle (like the subaks), is part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve system (the Escarpment Biosphere to be specific). It highlights for me that we are all interconnected through a diverse series of roots, invisible networks and undercurrents.
Water Shadows at heart aims to ‘open a dialogue that encourages the benign and beautiful symbiotic cultural relationship between nature and society.’ I weld structures out of steel then weave, sew and wrap them out of strips of old bicycle inner tubes that I have collected locally. The sculptures are black on crisp, white platforms. They are a statement of beauty that proclaim, that on some level, oil and water can mix.
This project highlights the soundscape as being key alongside the visual aspects inherent in a landscape. It allows for a rich interplay of voices to be heard and gives new depth to our understanding of the forms and reach that contemporary art can have. I encourage deep listening here, like Herman Hesse who writes,
“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.”
My work alludes to questions of how we nourish our deep selves through the flow of creativity and new ideas. It is my desire that Water Shadows give water a broader voice, to allow it to speak for itself in a language deeper than words. It is my hope that Water Shadows will provide a potent point of connection to the ‘wild currents’ within. I feel this is a powerful offering, for, as Rabindrath Tagore writes,
“The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.”