Metaphorical Paintings by Calida Garcia Rawles Obscure Black Subjects with Gleaming Ripples of Water
Artist Calida Garcia Rawles continues her explorations into the myriad possibilities of water with paintings distorted by bubbles, pockets of air, and ripples reflecting the light above. She suspends Black figures in otherwise imperceptible moments, like the pause that immediately follows a fully-clothed plunge into a pool, conveying a vulnerable and fleeting interaction between her subjects and their surroundings. With submerged profiles or mirrored features, many are unidentifiable. “You really can’t see a face. They become almost forms and a part of their environment,” she tells Colossal. “I think there’s a spiritual element to water… They’re formless, and we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Many of the poetic renderings depict figures in billowing gowns or collared shirts in white for the color’s association with virtue and purity, a symbolic choice that’s connected to the artist’s interest in broader questions of race and its implications. “A lot of times innocence is not associated with the Black body. I thought it was a place to start,” she says. In an exploration of Rawles’s work, writer Roxane Gay further connects these questions to the water itself, sharing that the ripples in the artist’s paintings reference “the topographical maps of cities where Black lives have been tragically lost.”
Each painting is based on photographs the artist takes herself—read more about her lengthy research process previously on Colossal—and captures water’s incredible power and meditative qualities. For Rawles, the fluid spaces are metaphorical and tied broadly to Water-Memory Theory, or the idea that the vital liquid can preserve all of its interactions. “(I’m) remembering what water does, that it holds history in a way,” she says. “Water has everything that’s been through it, and that’s fascinating to me.”
Her practice is circular, and she’s likely to return to a thought or broader theme after setting it aside. The ethereal, abstract paintings that comprise the new series On the Other Side of Everything, for example, are extensions of those in A Dream For My Lillith, six paintings featuring clothed figures who are obscured by lustrous ripples of water rendered in acrylic. “It’s not a departure,” Rawles says of her new work. “It’s just showing more range of what I can do.”
On the Other Side of Everything is on view at Lehmann Maupin in New York through October 23, and the artist is currently working on her first mural at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. You can follow her progress on that large-scale work and see more of her process on Instagram.
Update: This article was updated for context on October 13, 2021.
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Fiber artist Megan Zaniewski sends delicate air bubbles rippling through her water-based embroideries that capture the momentum of ducks, turtles, and other wildlife as they dive into a pond or lake. Through a combination of knots and straight stitches, Zaniewski deftly renders the animals as they burst through the surface, using threadpainting techniques with staggered strands of cotton to depict layered feathers and fur. She’s embroidered more than 70 different species in the last two years, when she started working with the fiber-based medium:
My exposure to hand embroidery began early, thanks to my mom and grandmother, who were both skilled at needlework. A couple of years ago I rediscovered some embroidery supplies tucked away and decided to make a few small embroidered landscapes of places we had visited. It quickly became my preferred art form…I enjoy the challenge of creating animated and detailed animal portraits with just the simple tools of a needle and thread, bringing them to life stitch by stitch.
Follow Zaniewski on Instagram to keep up with her split-view pieces, including the two large embroideries and 3-dimensional stumpwork piece she’s working on now.
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In Sonia Alins’s dreamy works, figures gently break through the surface of the sea, creating a minimal ripple around their bodies as they dip in and out of the water. The Spanish artist and illustrator (previously) is known for her expressive swimmers, whose enlarged limbs splay in graceful positions as they float and move through the ocean. Translucent sheets of vellum produce the cloudy effects of water, obscuring fish and coral and adding a three-dimensional element to the largely ink, acrylic, and watercolor drawings.
Although Alins primarily centers women in ambiguous states of emotion, men and children have been emerging in her mixed-media illustrations, further reflecting on the artist’s own experience with motherhood and the incomparable force of aquatic environments. “I feel the water as powerful entity, a supernatural force capable of source anguish, pain, desperation in the same way that it is a source of happiness, joy, inner peace, and love. Water helps me to express my feelings in a louder way, and it’s why I love it,” she tells Colossal.
Alins works on a variety of commissions in addition to her personal practice, and her ethereal project for Moleskine titled “The Beautiful Red Reefs” recently won her an Award of Excellence from Communication Arts’s annual competition. Browse originals and hand-embellished prints in limited quantities in her shop, and you can keep up with her illustrations, in addition to news about upcoming shows like the one at Taipei’s Contemporary by U gallery in October, on Behance and Instagram.
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Earlier this year, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine launched off the Orkney coast, where it will spend the next 15 years generating enough clean energy to power about 2,000 households in the U.K. “O2” is the novel development of the Scottish engineering company Orbital Marine Power, which manufactured the 74-meter-long design during the last decade and a half.
Anchored in the turbulent waters in the Fall of Warness off the northeastern point of Scotland, the 2MW machine is connected to the onshore electricity network of the European Marine Energy Centre. The testing facility uses the powerful currents flowing through the channel from the North Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea—these streams reach 7.8 knots at spring tides—to produce a reliable electricity source for local communities. During its stay, “O2” will also support the center’s hydrogen electrolyzer, which is the first in the world to produce the pure element through tidal velocities, and further aid in broad decarbonization efforts.
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Olafur Eliasson's Newest Exhibition Floods Fondation Beyeler with a Bright Green Pond Filled with Plants
A flood of murky water overwhelms the stark white galleries of Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland. The new exhibition, simply titled “Life,” is the work of acclaimed Danish-Iceland artist Olafur Eliasson (previously), who set the Swiss institution awash in floating ferns, dwarf water lilies, shell flowers, red root floaters, and water caltrops.
To install the sprawling project, Eliasson removed the windows on one side of the museum’s facade, which allows visitors and nearby wildlife to enter the space at any time of day or night. The open-air environment subjects the manufactured reservoir indoors to the naturally occurring elements outside the building, like the weather, daylight, humidity, and smells and sounds of nearby public gardens. At night, a combination of UV lights and a fluorescent dye called uranine radiate brilliant colors throughout the water.
A prismatic livestream—Eliasson outfitted some of the cameras with apparatuses that mimic the sensory experiences of animals and insects—captures how the immersive space changes with each moment, especially as the surface reflects shadows and passersby. These interactions between human and non-human species foreground the project, which was inspired by anthropologist Natasha Myers who’s advocated for the advent of the “planthroposcene.” An alternative to the anthropocene, Myers’ concept is “rooted in the knowledge that plants are what made this planet liveable,” a statement says, clarifying that although the gallery is overrun with water, Eliasson’s goal is to evidence the interconnectivity inherent in nature.
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Calm bodies of hand-cut glass pool atop jagged concrete in Ben Young’s aquatic sculptures. The New Zealand-based artist (previously) is known for his marine landscapes that position miniature figures in vast expanses of the translucent material, creating a contemplative environment that juxtaposes a minuscule representation of humanity alongside the immensity of the oceans and other bodies of water. Each piece similarly contrasts the organic topography with the perfect right angles that provide the cubic shape and revealing cross-sections.
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