MAN AND WATER

 

 

 

"And the spirit of God was hovering over the waters": with these words ends the incipit of Genesis which places water, together with Sky and Earth, as principle of creation. And then, on the second day, immediately after the light, "God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament". And on the third day He "took together in one place the waters that are under the sky and He named the dry land Earth and the waters Seas" until, on the fourth day, "God said: the waters be full of living things"; and so, out of the water and in the water came the first forms of animal life.

 

In the religious tradition of the West, water is the essential element to complete the miracle of existence. Hence its inherent "holiness": a "holiness" universally felt and recognized since the beginning of time in every part of the world, developing in the countless ways in which water participates as a protagonist in the religious rituals of “Homo Sapiens”.

This water sacralization is certainly due to the recognition of its crucial importance to the creation and to the maintenance of life in the world. But beyond its apparent essentiality, humanity traditionally recognizes to water the value of a testimony of the divine, the transcendent, the mystery. So, the objective reality of its biological necessity fills of mystical-religious contents belonging to "another reality" from which water draws continuously new metaphorical significances. And the metaphor begins to live its own life gradually extending the boundaries of its purely physical connotation from the territory of the "sciences of nature" to the infinitely more vast territory of the “sciences of spirit”.

It becomes an important object of philosophical reflection about the meaning of the world, as in Thales, or about the irreversibility of time, as in Heraclitus.

In Homer it becomes the absolute protagonist of that great adventure of life that is the journey ofUlysses. In mythology it becomes the cradle of beauty from which Venus – in the words of Foscolo - “was born virgin ”. In all religions it takes a mediating role between man and deity, from the rain dance of totemic cults to the baptism of Jesus in Jordan, to the Hindu ablutions in the Ganges river.

 

Once it became metaphor, namely once it retrieved the infinitely signifiable sense of the Word, of the Verb, of the Logos, water takes back its own “self ”, recreating and extending its being-here-and-now into a pure Being that makes it available to philosophy, religion, literature, poetry, collective imagination (as in fairy tales or proverbs), or personal "aesthetic judgment", such as in the various expressions of art in general and in particular of the visual one. Here the water is enriched with new emotional contents, from the contemplative ecstasy of a “Lagoon Landscape" in Canaletto, to the sublime dismay of a "Storm" in Giorgione. In the infinite variety of colours and ways in which it is represented, however evocative of the infinite variability of its natural conditions, it embodies the soul of the world and offers it to our consciousness as mirror and memory of our most recondite scaffolding, never fully containable in the space and in the certainties of the “I” and therefore always exposed to the sudden and continuous changing of the events. According to Heidegger, water may represent that abyss (abgrund) from which Being can emerge in its most absolute irrationality as unexpected "revelation" and in which it may unexpectedly plunge and dissolve as swallowed up by the “nothing”.

 

This is precisely the sense that animates the language of all my paintings: an encrypted language constantly suspended between the eddies of nihilism and the hermeneutic approach to the infinitely signifiable truth of the being, and in particular of the human being. Also in this exhibit which puts together a number of works occasionally created by me in during my thirty-five years of activity, and in whose context is evoked the image of water, such element is never proposed in its purely descriptive or just emotional value, but rather as a metaphorical mean of some foundational aspects of human being.

So that the link between man and water is recognizable in the hermeneutic implicit proposal of these works, where the water, together with the other elements of the pictorial composition, even leaving itself being read as water, maintains however that distance from the real world that allows it to act as a "figure of Being" and to be alive and present not as a “fact" or as a "thing" but as a mere “ontological signification".

 

Coming back to the first verses of Genesis, we could say that there is nothing in the world more open and mysterious than water. And without a continuous re-signification, i.e. without an assiduous care of this essential element by man, the world itself would come back into the abyss of nothingness: in the religious-poetical metaphoric sense as well as in the reality of facts and conventional things.

 

This exhibition wants to be a proposal of ontological re-signification of man and water, open to the creative interpretation of the viewer.

 

 

Pier Augusto Breccia