For a number of years my practice has celebrated the visual aesthetics of water and the cathartic pull that arises when we consider and experience its materiality. Using the unique camera-less medium of wet process photograms, my work aims to remind us of the fundamental connections that we have with water. By embracing bodies of water or the energy of naturally occurring waterways as a catalyst, tangible imprints are created under water at night time to record an authentic and personal experience of immersion. Inspired by the groundbreaking and completely divine work of British artist Susan Derges, I have learnt the technique that involves submerging large sheets of light-sensitive, black and white photographic paper under flowing water, with intense light. The sheets are then processed in traditional darkroom chemicals.
The large-scale photograms reveal the organised chaos of water emerging from the flat field of paper like a language of symbols. In a way, the materiality of water is exchanged for its symbolic power; as remnant patterns that unveil traces of the cosmic phenomena of water contents, mirroring its strangeness, wildness, stillness and peace. Each print is a documentation of place and a memory of one specific moment in time.The ebb and flow of watery landscapes create unique situations for capturing photogram images that reveal lyrical movements, shadows, undercurrents and surface tensions. The energy and motion of water and its diverse, elusive qualities in the form of drips, ripples, circles, swirls, vortexes, waves and smears are extremely unusual and interesting. The paper is a receptacle of this, like a skin of the water.
The work is intrinsically experimental in nature as the outcome of each photogram is unpredictable and individual according to the motion and contents of the water, the tide, the moon and the weather at each moment of exposure.
“Wallace J Nicholls believes that our global connections to water produces numerous positive effects on our health and wellbeing. He describes the experience of a “Blue Mind” as a response that arises when we interact physically, visually and mentally with water, calling it 'a mildly meditative state characterised by calm, peacefulnesses, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.' (Nichols, The Blue Mind, 2014, p6)
Nichols explains the unknown magic that we deeply feel about water through his study of its emotional, psychological and corporeal pull. Current research, psychology, cognitive function and neurochemistry studies all cite the beneficial effects that water has on our health, imbuing our senses and calming our bodies. This explains the reverence and emotion we intuitively experience when near the ocean.
The original photogram prints have already been through quite an ordeal. As objects they are durable, versatile pieces of art that hang beautifully in a classical format in a white cube gallery space. Alternatively they can suspend from a line across a room, comparable to their format after the washing phase of the developing process. Responding to the fluidity of water, they can also be exhibited on the ground or a table top in a horizontal format, mirroring the way we look down into a water space and showing parallels with the process and how the image was created. Using different iterations of the original water photograms from detailed scans, the work can be shown very successfully in the form of digital backlit light boxes and light projections onto any surface. I have previously exhibited these coloured, vibrant photogram details in several settings, including quality digital paper prints of the same, in large and small formats. Adding an extra layer to the viewing experience, I have utilised sound pieces, including cosmic galaxy recordings, water recordings from the beach, slowed down echoey tap drips and Cath Robinsons' hauntingly beautiful Southern Gospel Choir recording from our collaborative show Waves and Wave Forms at Moonah Arts Centre.