Curatorial Text: "Beyond the Surface: Water", Silvia Bener
17 May-30 June 2022, Kale Design and Arts Center
"Beyond the Surface: Water” presents a selection of Silvia Bener’s works in which she explores water, the essence of everything, as a concept where the existence makes itself visible. With their gaze directed beyond the surface of water, Bener’s works enables an inquiry into one’s own position within the universe. Mainly occupying the entrance and mezzanine floors, the exhibition spreads throughout the building, inviting visitors to a sensorial, experiential and intellectual immersion into water.
Water provides a rich space for contemplation and experimentation in Silvia Bener's works: it is where the universe’s secrets are hidden and where the universe manifests itself. For over a decade, the artist embraces water as her main media. The technique that she calls Aqua Materia Art, in which she works with paints on water, is inspired from the traditional marbling art although radically diverging from it: she works with large trays which makes bodily movements possible, uses materials with varying concentrations or makes her own paints and she withdraws her agency as an artist to let the conditions of that very moment reflect on the water surface rather than trying to create a predetermined form. This performative and meditative process can be viewed as a vehicle for an inner journey, a gesture of non-resistance that objects to the importance given to the sense of sight in today’s world.
The abstract textures and forms that arise with the use of this technique shows great resemblance to the molecular structures and patterns observed in nature, solidifying Bener’s interest in looking at what is beyond the visible world. Through an extensive research process that includes the water studies by scientists such as Masaru Emoto and Victor Schauberger, world religions and the waterways and cisterns of Istanbul, the artist examines the depths of the water surface.
In the face of the human-centric gaze that constructs the world in Western art history and the dominance of sight in our age, Bener's work considers the gaze as a means of self-discovery. In the following centuries, the invention of perspective, which allows the illusion of space in Western painting, results in the arrangement of the world according to the human gaze, leading to the world becoming a painting itself. * Our attention is occupied with appearances, Plato’s forms, that is to say, and truth and essence slips through the gaze in our age of chaotic image and information flux. In Bener's works, on the contrary, the gaze is essentially directed towards the self: In this respect, the work titled “Selbst (self)”, which reflects the eyes of the viewer back to her, holds a central position in the exhibition.
On the other hand, in Bener's works the physical space in which the existence is rooted is also essential in terms of being an element of contrast so that the invisible and incomprehensible truths can be understood. The artist's installation titled "Hexagonal", which surrounds the ground floor gallery and is based on the hexagonal atomic structure of water in the form of ice, plays with the perception of space, highlighting the fallibility of the eye and ultimately drawing the viewer's attention to her own gaze and her own position. The questioning of the concept of space in the exhibition begins to unravel in the video installation titled “Flow of Substance”, which transforms the room in which it is located into a space of experience.
Silvia Bener's artistic practice traces new connections within the universe through knowledge, experience and observation. The cold and burning properties in water’s atomic structure, the body and the soul, the inside and the outside, the visible and the invisible, and the seemingly irreconcilable dualities between Western and Eastern cultures all find their place in the artist's practice as a richness contributing to her exploration of universe. The mezzanine floor brings together sketches, notes, natural objects and nature observations from Bener’s studio. This section of the artist's thought space, allows the viewer to discover new meanings through visual and intuitive connotations, reminiscent of the method used by art historian Aby Warburg in his famous Mnemosyne Atlas, in which he traces the impact of antiquity on Western culture through collecting and juxtaposing hundreds of images.
* Belting, Hans (2009). Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science. Belknap Press.