Water is essential to life. Without water, neither man nor any other life would exist. It is thus all the more shocking how little respect we have for water, how we humans waste and pollute it, with no regard for the consequences: the end of life itself.
My interest in water began in Ireland, where water nourishes the bogs, and intensified after moving to California, where severe drought persists and causes havoc. Series such as bog, iceworld and the marina project have each dealt with aspects of water. Now, in ‘Bitter Water’ I’m considering the pollution of water, particularly through plastic and micro-plastics.
The aim of this new series is to show works that illustrate the beauty of water while also addressing the ‘bitter’ side: pollution and waste. On many works I use transparent papers treated with wax and ink, placed on top of the painting using magnets, essentially hiding much of the underlying image. The layer is not attached permanently, but rather tentatively and it invites the viewer to touch it, move it, look beneath. The beautiful blue is there, but hidden behind a plastic-like film. It can be guessed and you can also remove this layer. The work is fragile and highly tactile, aimed to raise curiosity and awareness. Some visitors may dare to look behind the layer. Carefully. Inquisitively. What hides under the, plastic ‘. Can we undo this pollution?
I quite consciously used natural materials (where at all possible). Wax is ideal to represent wetness and translucency and allows me to develop a largely free artistic interpretation. To work with wax on a large area, the images are somewhat “cast” and must be horizontal to solidify and are then scraped and scratched. On other surfaces the wax is ironed only very thinly and is thus quite fragile ‘- such as the eco-system water, fragile’ is.
The titles of the smaller works on wood, are things that you may find in the water nowadays, but don’t perhaps belong there.
Contradictions and duality is united figuratively. Good and bad overlaps in gray areas. Hidden secrets can be discovered or guessed. Details are as important as the overall impression from afar. Understanding is as important as feeling.
The series premiered at the exhibition ‘Bitteres Wasser’ in Berlin organised by the Artists Group on Water, of which Stahl is a founder.