Water and Life dives into the depths of the sea and sails to busy ports

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Friday, April 12, 2024

Water and Life dives into the depths of the sea and sails to busy ports
Charles-Franšois Daubigny (1817–1878): The Rising Moon on the River Bank; Village by the Light of the Moon, 1874. Finnish National Gallery / The Sinebrychoff Art Museum.

HELSINKI.- The exhibition at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum explores humans’ journey to water from the seventeenth century until the present day. It invites you to reflect on our relationship with water, one of the essential elements for life.

Life on this planet began with water. Water covers almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface and is essential for life. The exhibition at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum explores humans’ journey to water from the seventeenth century until the present day. The exhibition portrays water through art and natural science.

“I feel that the museum has an obligation to partake in discussions of major importance to society and bring its own perspectives to light. The Life Under Threat exhibition in 2020 dealt with the relationship between animals and humans. Now the exhibition focuses on water. I hope that, through art, people will awaken to the beauty of our planet", says Museum Director Kirsi Eskelinen.

The Water and Life exhibition consists of paintings, sculptures, graphic art and contemporary art executed in a range of methods, dating from the seventeenth century to the present day mainly from the Finnish National Gallery's own collection. The artists exhibited include: Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875), Charles-Franšois Daubigny (1817–1878), Ellen Thesleff (1869–1954), Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931) and Heli Rekula (1963–). The exhibition also includes treasures of the sea, such as fossils and shells. Salla Heino is curator of the exhibition.

Humans and water

Humans’ relationship to water is intricate, and it has changed over time. For a long time, humans went out on the water only when it was necessary. Along with conquest, exploration and trade, fishing was one reason to set out sailing. Artists have portrayed battles and lordship of the seas in their seascape paintings. Not only have they portrayed heroic deeds but also the darker side of seafaring, such as shipwrecks and destruction. Artists were aware of the power and volatility of water, which is evident in their works.

It was not until industrialization and urbanization that the coastal shores became appealing to people, and they began to spend time by the water for leisure. Beach life and leisure by the water became more common in the nineteenth century. Artists were also devoted to nature. Artists in the Barbizon School especially, such as Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796–1875) and Charles-Franšois Daubigny (1817–1878), focused on eternalizing moments spent in nature. Nature or landscape were reason enough to paint — there was no need to depict higher powers, nobility or morality.

Research and curiosity have propelled humans all the way to the Arctic icebergs and to the depths of the seas. The aquatic environment and research of it were great sources of inspiration in the nineteenth century. New information about animals became available and the fear that the creatures of the sea aroused subsided. Humans became more familiar with and more comfortable around water. The deepest nooks of the seas are, however, still a mystery even today, although the advancement of diving technology continually generates new knowledge.

“Modern technology allows researchers to reach depths of thousands of metres, which is a much shorter distance compared to how far humans have travelled when exploring space. New species of organisms are constantly being discovered at the bottom of the seas", says curator of the exhibiton Salla Heino.

Ebb and flow

Movement is a defining feature of water. Water is all around us, not just in the ebb and flow of the waves and surface. It changes from one state to another. Waterways provide transportation routes for people, goods, flora and other life forms.

Travelling on land or at sea is a way to perceive our world’s boundaries. Artists have also travelled to certain shores and waters. The works allow us to travel to the time and place where a given artist has been and, in the best case, imbue the same experience on us.

“The works take us to new places. We can tangibly explore geographical differences and details in the water and coastal shores. To give an example, Venny Soldan-Brofeldt (1863–1945) painted Archipelago landscape (1900) on the shore of the Baltic Sea. You can clearly see that the coastal rock is granite, smoothed over during the Ice Age", Heino explains.

The Water and Life exhibition takes you on a journey to admire landscapes and relax by the varying essence of water. It also invites you to explore the natural science of water and reflect on our relationship to water.

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