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Text for exhibition/catalogue in the Keats-Shelley House, Rome, (Oct-Nov, 2006), in writ in water: Ode to Mutability , Silvia Stucky (Keats-Shelley House, Rome, 2006).






writ in water


It is in the gift of the artist to present us with artworks that at once encompass complex issues yet also stimulate delight at their simplicity of design. Silvia’s artwork raises questions of the relation of reflection to reality: of representation to reality; of permanence to impermanence; of the one as the means of revealing the other; of one as revealed in the other; of one as the revelation of the other.


Reflection. The doubling, reproduction, and consequent dwelling upon, of reality. A mimesis reflected, and reflected upon. Thinking with water; thinking with light.


writ in water’.


Reflection. With its distortions and partiality. At once representing one point of view. With distortion, with ripples, supplementing, putting back the fragments of all the other viewpoints that are missing. A scattering of mirrors. Mirrors that remind us of our loss (of a light once known, now lost, of a world shivered apart) but also of the life of the possible - of what lies beyond. Offering the viewer the barest glimpse of their world, and of themselves… bared, transfigured. Reflection beyond mimesis. The light of renewal. The light of ritual on water.


’writ in water’


Water. Medium of solubility; giving us our painting, our medicines, our washing, and our cleaning; the clothing of body, of soul. Our symbolic washing; our inner cleansing and our rebirth. Our ritual baptism. Water: solution of our ills. Medium in which we see reflected the solution to our ills.


Tidal Water. Periodicity and the passage of time; the monthly fall of dark water, the black blood that reflects like silver. The silver light of the feminine, the cycles of the moon. Itself lit by reflection. The silver light of reflection; of mercury, of light on glass, of light on water.


The face of light on the waters. A reflection contingent on every passing moment; yet which is always (provisionally) there…


‘writ in water’


Mobile/Immobile. Temporal/eternal (what is fixed is the fluidity into which everything is cast).

Not only space (and the imprint, the image it bears) but time also is framed, is reflected in water. Which time? This or another? This one now, the one just past, or one in the future? One’s past or future? The past or future that come with a present - with one’s present? Ambiguous. Lacking other signs (lacking other context) unsure of its status as reflection (now) or of memory or projection, ghost or wish, visitor from a previous present - now lost. Or time traveller sent back from a future, a present to come, not yet come, impossible, until no longer itself, no longer the future but again, the present… A reflection from another time, another place.


writ in water


Or somewhere else? Elsewhere (absolutely, impossibly). But still, paradoxically, ever-present. A glimpse of mutabilitie as perpetual. Its aspect remaining in perpetuity. A perpetual constant. A-temporal. Change which is changeless. Eternal. A shifting glimmering anchor point, like an anchor glimpsed through water, through the depths of water. Foundation of the present (state) and insubstantial; known but finally not admitting of location. The human condition before time and entropy. Looking for certitude, guarantor of plenitude, of truth, of value, of a way of life…  Always provisionally there, yet gone, fluid, shifting, and always reflecting light - to trick us: to sustain us - occasionally even reflecting the heavens. Like water.


writ in water


If the brilliance of reflection dazzled us with intimations of eternity, then the gentler textures offered by the non-reflective surface of watercolour, draw us into a world where repose and terror sit side by side. For the trace of terror, dark edging of the sublime, the clutching hand concealed in all metaphors of water, so often belies the soothing nature of literal forms. The absorbency of the surface draws us in… takes us in. As light is swallowed, so our eyes follow, so we too may be swallowed up ourselves.

What is immediately presented: the surface, the immediate presence of the artwork as object (the gouache and the grain of the paper that allows it space to become sign, a sign always marked by the texture of that support). Object offers figure; the path to meaning; the path of all that has been absorbed by this surface, this texture, and which now hides behind it. Light entering, a figure for our attention, also entering, but remaining; beguiled and haunted by the promise of hidden deaths in a surface at once solid and absorbing; absorbing light and thought alike, like the sand at the bottom of the ocean: the porous truth of another world. Alluded to in the forms presented, of the water whose abstract representation now opens out onto a vast ocean of meaning. And in the context, the Keats-Shelley House, in the deaths of the two poets in whose commemorative dwelling these paintings are staged, reminding us of death by water; the drowning of Shelley and the equally premature death by tuberculosis of Keats - a drowning from within.      

For absorption suggests another side to the texture presented, the place where the light has gone. Even our attention, our ideas, are they too taken in, absorbed, lying somewhere on the other side of that porous surface? Ourselves like ghosts imprisoned in there. Like the memories of poets, or the thought of a Grecian urn, poetry as stele, as monument (as funeral urn). As memory. Repository of the past. Behind water colour and rice paper, the past reaches out to us, even as we are drawn into it, are drawn by it, by the artist and her work, into that work, into the past, its past, and our past also, our memory. Two pasts entwining (the experience of the artwork, its past accreted in its present and the past of the viewer, without which there could be no understanding of the art work) both entwined in the present, their present, there present; the future of the viewer.

Part of the death of the self before water, before watercolours, drowning already in the paint that beckons, become born anew, our past lost there as our future emerges. Born of the ritual of water.


writ in water


But the element of reflection nevertheless remains. Inherent in the glass cases in which the works are exhibited. Present in the glass through which we must gaze. Part now of their meaning; the ghost of the artist’s previous works. The reflection that walks upon the shining surface of all waters. Blinding and revealing


Reflection: prior to the matter reflected. Provisionally (there, yet not there). Making provision (for…); looking ahead, a reflection on and from the future, a time not yet - a vision. A time not… yet a vision. So we might make provision, albeit provisionally… provision demanded by the ceaseless passage of the waters of time.


Absorption: taken… being written. Standing yet elsewhere. Taken by watercolour, by the water that was once there (but now is gone) by the stone that is ground there, that remains; a stone that has been ground, ground once in water, dissolving, giving ground to water, the colour of water.


(For with time we are taken…

In time we are taken… )


Written in stone: writ in water.



Peter Nesteruk, 2006