- Miles Hedley
OUR CONNECTION TO WATER at the National Maritime Museum
If you want a perfect example of how less is more, check out the gorgeous exhibition Our Connection To Water now on at the Insight Gallery of the National Maritime Museum.
Only seven artists feature in the free show, yet such is the potency of the their work that it feels like so many more as they thrillingly, brilliantly encapsulate the unique place that water occupies in the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual lives of every single person on the planet.
The show, presented by The Collective Makers in partnership with Royal Museums Greenwich, includes film, digital images and projections, photographs and soundscapes from around the world.
It opens with an astounding film (pictured) by indigenous Chilean Seba Calfuqueo in which the artist himself unravels a near-hallucinatory roll of shimmering blue fabric along the banks of an equally blue jungle river until he – and it – are all but submerged in the foaming pool at the base of a roaring waterfall. It is one of the most mesmerisingly beautiful pieces of film I have seen anywhere, ever. Period.
Paul Malone, who works from a studio in Deptford, has installed the beguilingly lovely Photonic Ocean, an imagination-stretching digital projection using a wall of transparent tubes that was inspired by the mass of mysterious bioluminescent lifeforms that can be found in our deepest oceans.
The ocean is also at the heart of Artemis Evlogimenou’s work which features fascinating marine photos and underwater recordings of sounds ranging from manmade devices to the haunting calls of whales which together demonstrate that the threat of noise pollution is by no means exclusively land-based.
British-South African artist Giya Makondo-Wills’s contribution includes another highlight of the entire exhibition, a glorious tryptich entitled Constant Ritual which shows three different images of the same pair of hands being washed, referencing our everyday desire for basic hygiene, the cleansing rites that date back to our earliest ancestors and, of course, our contemporary struggle to keep Covid at bay.
At 18, London-based illustrator Aya Mohamed is the youngest contributor to the show with half a dozen delightful and deceptively simple digital images – accompanied by verses from the Quran –inspired by the flood-washed Sudanese meeting place of the White and Blue Nile.
Dafe Oboro’s powerful Pour Me Water, Pure Water spotlights Nigerian workers in bustling commercial centres ending their exhausting shifts by taking a bath, often in public because their homes don’t have access to running water. The contrast between the urban haves and have-nots in the piece, which was commissioned by the charity Water Aid, is unstated but unmissable.
Last – but by no means least – there is Conversations With Our Grandmothers, an engaging, often moving mix of film and stills produced by south-east London’s JIUN Collective which is made up of sisters Kharis, Verity and Stephanie Wong. Their Chinese-Malaysian/white New Zealander heritage has given them fascinating insights into contrasting cultures and transoceanic migration.
I can’t speak too highly of this small but perfectly formed exhibition. Each artist offers a personal but important take on our relationship with water and at the same time succeeds in celebrating this giver of life while also implicitly warning that our reckless attitude to our environment could destroy the very thing that sustains us all. It’s neatly understated - and all the more potent for it.
Our Connection to Water runs all year. Full details at https://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/national-maritime-museum/our-connection-water