Writing on water

Last year I spent a month in Vermont exploring and responding to the wild terrain of the Green Mountains, working each day by the flowing waters and cascading rapids of the Gihon river. The month began in heavy snow and ended with the first signs of spring, as the ice flows slowly dissolved and the rivers rose up with the roar and rush of melt water.

Arriving from London with two large rolls of paper and a few drawing materials I set out to find a way of recording this parcel of time and space by interacting with the river’s alchemy, pacing out the days - sometimes icily cold, sometimes warm and wet as the season changed - with images made both with the water and of the water. Responding to this fluid encounter, as well as to its vibrant sounds, both its pulsing rush and gentle whisper, was a way to reconcile (through marks on paper) the river’s dark mercurial force and glittering surface with the mutating course of its submerged history.

‘Gihon’ – both the word and the sound - belongs not only to the physical flow of time through this passage of land (and the memories that once surrounded it) but also to a wider sea of stories, as one of the four rivers of Genesis issuing from the Garden of Eden. In the first century the historian Josephus associated the Gihon with the river Nile (the original Hebrew word may be interpreted as ‘bursting forth, gushing’), and within the turbulent streams and creeks of its North American incarnation it also brought life of another kind with the trace of gold.

The cursory markings employed as a loosely flowing calligraphic undercurrent to the river-saturated colour washes (as in ‘Gihon 22’ above) are by way of rhythmic inscriptions, ghosted signs that evoke a now indecipherable meaning. The resulting series of images, each made in one continuous sitting and on successive days, contain their own silent language (like the empty space between words) and what remains of the drawing process in the shadowy residue left on the surface becomes a kind of writing on water.

Writing on water: new work on paper. Adam Gallery London 10 March to 29 March 2014