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  • Writer's pictureTessel van der Putte

Women and Water

Some of the earliest memories I have as a child are related to water. I can clearly remember my fascination for the little creek in front of our holiday home in the Ardennes as a three-year-old, or being in awe of the rivers and lakes we would find while camping. In one way or another, bodies of water have always been an important part of my upbringing and look on life. It would spark my imagination about other worlds, about time, and it would somehow feel sacred to me.

I grew up associating the element of water with femininity. Reading more about this, I found many linkages between women and water throughout history. For example, not only ancient literature portrays young women as the traditional water bearers, but we also see today how women and young girls still play crucial roles in their community when it comes to managing water resources. On another level, we also see how these connections are rendered in religion and mythological stories, such as the Rainbow Serpent from Aboriginal Dreamtime stories.

Beyond the social-political and cultural linkages, there are also obvious natural connections between water and women's bodies. In natural environments, rain and other bodies of water enable life and fertility of the soil. The womb and her cycles are at the center of this idea.

I wanted to explore these currents (and undercurrents) of the feminine and water in art. So I created an art series titled 'Women and Water'. This series explores the ongoing linkages between water and feminism, meditating on how bodies of water hold memory, reflect, and bend perception - and how they ask us how both theirs, as well as our female bodies, have become places of ethics, philosophy, and even politics.

The currents between women and bodies of water

This blue, green and turquoise art series of six paintings, and growing, is an ode to the rivers, lakes and seas of our world. At the same time, each artwork also puts feminism at its core. The women portrayed in these artworks emulate the nature of water, each time finding symbolism and kinship between their existence.

Like water, these artworks overflow boundaries of form, challenging or reflecting our perception of the body. By fragmenting and abstracting the composition of the image, each canvas depicts multiple views of reality - reconceptualizing the idea behind the image. The realities that are depicted are predominantly those experienced by women.

Another gaze

The undercurrents of the feminine mind and her experiences have too often been silent and untold. It is ironic that even though the feminine mind has been unrepresented, a wide range of nude bodies has been highly regarded and displayed throughout the centuries, especially in the art world.

To rebel against this phenomenon, these artworks show the naked body with closed eyes - as if the women depicted deny performing or want to be approved by the viewer. Their closed eyes intend to break this pattern, by portraying harmonious and introspective female bodies.

Water and mindfulness

While these blue bodies transcend their physical boundaries and merge with their (natural) environment, they invite the viewer to reconsider how their seemingly limited physical existence does not stand so far away from their sublime internal worlds.

Gallery KunstHub Bink in Elburg is exhibiting this series, in an exhibition titled 'Kleur' ('Color') during the summer months of 2022, until 1st October.


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