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The Art of Water

A view of the world and its constantly changing colours and facets. Photo: Ulrich Schwarz

Gerald Winkle and Ulrich Schwarz find inspiration and motifs for their highly expressive water photography all around them. They focus all their attention on those special and fleeting moments that usually evade capture. The primary tools of their art: a good camera and plenty of patience. Also essential is a special eye for that decisive detail that turns the natural movement of water into an ephemeral work of art.

Seen through Gerald Winkle’s eyes, for example, three smooth stones on the bank of the Neckar river transform into “Nöck’s Daughter” – the water spirit that guards the river fords. In UIrich Schwarz’s photographs, which almost resemble linocuts, raindrops draw the finest circles on a smooth water surface while the reflection of a truck crossing a bridge creates a mosaic of thousands of colourful fragments.

Art knows no doctrines

When choosing their subjects, the two passionate amateur photographers use every corner of their home region – the area around WALA. Every puddle and brook offers endless possibilities to showcase the element of life in ever new, unimagined forms. “It is very important for me to get fully involved in each encounter with nature,” explains Gerald Winkle. “In this way, my photography becomes a form of meditation – I feel a connection with the world in its entirety and with the creativity that is present in nature.”

This natural creativity is especially evident in the essence of water. Forever in motion, water creates transient images and sculptures that remind us how everything that exists is subject to constant change, that everything in life is simultaneously becoming and decaying. Deep and mysterious, water reflects each and every facet of the world around it. Yet it also constitutes a world of its own – at times wild and effervescent, at other times comforting and calm. These contrasts are reflected in the photographs and create images full of power, depth and dynamism.

Everything flows. Everything in life is simultaneously becoming and decaying. Photo: Gerald Winkle

Like a thousand shooting stars on their way across the universe. Photo: Gerald Winkle

The mighty eruption of a volcano - actually just a simple brick in a stream. Photo: Gerald Winkle

Transience of the moment. Photo: Ulrich Schwarz

In line with the natural creativity. Photo: Ulrich Schwarz

Naturally pure and unfiltered

However, water’s capricious nature sometimes pushes photography to its limits. As a result, the pictures by Gerald Winkle and Ulrich Schwarz often do not look like photographs at all. Sometimes they look like a woodcut, sometimes a screen print, sometimes a painting. But there is one characteristic that all the works share: they all depict water in its pure, natural form. The two photographers use no filters – either in the creation or the processing of their photographs. Like the element they depict, these images radiate an original, unbridled power. And just like a torrential current made up of tiny individual droplets, they draw their strength from each individual detail.

The two artists curated a selection of their water photographs for a temporary exhibition in the WALA building. For around six months in 2018, the photographs accompanied many WALA employees on their way to and from work –serving as an impressive artistic reminder that water really is the element of life.