For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep connection with water – in any form. Something about it draws me close to it, encouraging me to stand by it, to watch it and also to get in. This love, fascination and watchful respect has passed to my children, water being fundamental part of any holiday we make.
It has taken many years of careful contemplation to realise and begin to get a little closer to what draws me to the water. It is a similar feeling to how I feel when I see an artwork I love at first hand. Like art, water is something that is central to me, back through memories, time, holidays, family and, more recently, the meeting of and companionship with kindred spirits. Our meetings include lots of: laughs, close attention, talking, care, advice on swimming and life, appreciation of our beautiful environment, its colours the quality of the water through its seasons, temperatures and moods (clear, brown, green, rough, calm, ever changing, balmy, cold, choppy).
These themes and contrasts are ones I revisit time and time again in my drawing and painting – whether it is a landscape of a particular significant location, a memory of experiencing the water or being in nature. Swimming near my home, meeting new people and also reconnecting with those I have known for a long time has been especially important to me. Experiencing the elements and being submerged for periods of time in the rivers or lakes near to our home has made me feel more at home and more grounded – or more watered!
Looking down into the water and seeing the vast array of greens, browns, greys, whites in so many hues, shapes and contrasts is something that has inspired me continuously. Observing the bubbles, splashes, ripples being under, on top and half-way between are ideas I am exploring at the moment. The combination of the physiological effects – the nature in your face and around your body – but also the deep psychological impact that the submersions in warm, cold or freezing water have is what is currently fascinating me. Often shown by the contrast of ordered shapes and lines and then the chaotic, natural and flowing array of colours and layers of ink, paint or drawn lines.
Most importantly, there is a great amount of communication without words – creating in my house. Swimming in the river, being together but apart, swimming alongside one another. The unsaid communication is what connects swimming with my artwork and the way that there is a sense of not having to say anything; an understanding exists. The water unifies and carries us along or, more recently, we charge against the flow towards the Toll Bridge.
The river has become an ever-changing, dark friend of unpredictable nature, but with the predictable rejuvenating, resetting and grounding quality. Temporarily, I exist somewhere else, am only focusing on the present moment and the appreciation of being where I am at that time. With the cold swims and dips, the inward centring required to face the temperatures – sometimes in the dark – has required such a strong focus, so different to the challenges to which I am accustomed.
The swims have created a new sense of worth, quickly followed by a relief and jubilation of getting out, thawing and finding my feet back on land (usually mud), drying myself off, followed by hot drinks, delicious cakes and fantastic company. A feeling that the day or week has been washed away, whatever good or bad it has brought, cleansing and rejuvenating mind and body and replenishing my creative energy.
Words and artwork by Emma Hallmark
Photo by Darrin Roles