Water Ways

When 10 Sep 2010 - 24 Nov 2010
Where Walsh Gallery
118 N. Peoria Street, 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60607
United States
Enquiry 312.829.3312

Wang Wei, 1/30th second underwater, 1999. Courtesy of the artist and Walsh Gallery, Chicago.

Sep 10 2010 – Nov 24 2010

Opening Reception: Sep 10 2010

Press Release:

Walsh Gallery is pleased to present Water Ways, an exhibition exploring the way art and water intersect as seen by prominent artists from India and China.  Artists include: Vivan Sundaram, Reena Kallat, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Sheba Chhachhi, Song Dong, Miao Xiaochun, and Wang Wei.  The exhibition includes photography, installation and video. The opening reception is Friday, September 10, 5-8 pm, and runs thru November 24.

In Mumbai-based artist Reena Kallat’s work, a series of 5 photos depicts Indian women knitting letters, which form the following words: “Our Bodies are Moulded Rivers,” a quote from the German poet Novalis.  What interests Ms. Kallat is the allusion of the body as a channel, especially since so much of the human body is composed of water.

New Delhi artist Vivan Sundaram presents the first American exhibition of his videos Flotage: River Jamuna and Flotage: River Garden.  Flotage: River Jamuna documents Sundaram’s project in which he hired Delhi trash pickers to source 8,000 plastic water bottles.  Sundaram fastened the bottles together to form a raft that he floated down the Jumuna River carrying several passengers.  The end of the project was marked by the dismantling of the raft so the bottles could be recycled.

In Baroda artist Gulam Mohammed Sheikhs’ photo montage Ark a combination of “saints, sadhus, sufis and skeptics” float on a lake, surrounded by oceanic waves, representing the pictorial traditions of both the East and West. Also floating in the waves are images of the town in which the artist was born. One detail shows a young Gandhi on the boat across from a 15th century saint-poet named Kabir, whose poetry encourages people to look within for wisdom rather than seeking outside.

In New Delhi artist Sheba Chhachhi’s video Water Diviner an elephant dives underwater and alternately swims and floats to great depths in the sea. The viewer is often confused as to whether the elephant is dead or alive. This surrealistic video was part of a larger installation project in a Dehli library that had been a former British colonial pool. The artwork probes the sediment of time and memory, encouraging viewers to read the subterranean histories and mythologies of water below the urban jungle.

Beijing artist Song Dong explores the healing potential of water and the possibilities that lie within water for self-awakening. The photo series Writing Diary with Water is based on an ongoing ritual the artist practiced for years. The artist’s father wanted him to be a writer but instead he wanted to be an artist. To pay tribute to his father, he wrote a diary entry every day using a calligraphy brush dipped in water on an ink stone. His words evaporated as they were created. The photo series documents this process.

In another photo series, Stamping the Water, Song Dong went to Tibet after his father died and created a large stamp with the character for water on it. He then entered a lake and repeatedly stamped the water with this character. Once more the water becomes a symbolic vehicle for healing.

Beijing artist Miao Xiaochun created large-scale digital renderings of his nude body which he inserted into masterpieces from Western art history. Essentially, he replaced all the figures in each work with his own body, often turning key characters into a crystallized water body. For Miao Xiaochun, these masterpieces help illustrate the role water has played over time.  In Miao Xiaochun’s video retake of Michelangelo’s Genesis, the iconic scene of God and Adam now exists in a drop of water. Man gives up the water from his bubble to God thus saving mankind. Water itself performs the ultimate act of power by sustaining life. This directly contrasts with the content of Michelangelo’s work, where only God himself creates life.

If water has historically reflected one’s soul, Beijing-based artist Wang Wei playfully shows us his. Wang Wei created an interactive photo-based installation of light boxes depicting himself holding his breath underwater, which he does in a large glass bowl. The effect is both comical and disturbing. Is he clowning or drowning?

Water Ways shows us the way in which water flows through all of us.

For more information, please visit walshgallery.com/