CLAY / WATER
In 1983 in my first year as an art-student I took part in a course run by the danish film-maker and visual artist Jytte Rex. For a week we worked with clay, modelling various sculptures. Sometime during that week Jytte Rex told us about another time she had been working concentrated with clay, using her fingers and hands in the moist, earthly material every day. During that period she had been dreaming of water every night. I can’t remember if I myself was dreaming of water, but somehow Jytte Rex’s story has been with me ever since. The connection between using your fingers and hands to form the moist clay and the re-occurring dreams of water. Jytte Rex also showed us the famous painting of a roman aqueduct by the painter Eckersberg – an image that also occurs in one of her early films as a kind re-appearing mental symbol.
During last weeks holiday in Madeira we made a couple of walks on the so-called Levadas. A levada is a mountain water-channel that leads water from the mountain springs down to the cities where it is used to water the fields. Fields of passion-fruits, bananas, flowers and what ever exotic fruits is being produced on the island.
The levadas are very close to perfect horizontal, only a slight leverage secures that the water flows gently and slowly in one direction. They are made of concrete and most of them are many kilometers long, running through the wild and extremely step mountain ranges. Each channel is about 50 centimeters wide and between 10 and 50 centimeters deep. Along this channel runs a 50 centimeter wide path made to ensure passage for the workers who have to do maintance of the levadas.
The levadas makes for the perfect hiking paths. Here you can follow the levada running along the wildest volcanic mountains, high up on the steep slopes, through long narrow tunnels, crossing the terrain in a perfectly balanced horizontal manner without any uphill or downhill complications. You walk alongside the water channel with water running in a very calm and slow tempo beside you all the way. The views are breathtaking and dramatic, but as the sun warms you up, you slow down and let the winding of the lavada guide you in a contemplative manner.
There is something extremely peaceful about this experience. The cool water flowing immideately creates a tranquil and soothing atmosphere. It influences you at a subconcious level with a deep therapeutic effect. A calm revelation. All stress and anxiety flows away.
The levada experiences made me think of Eckersbergs water channel and Jytte Rex’s dreams of water. We only made two levada-walks, but what if we had been walking the levadas every day for a longer period? Would I have been dreaming of clay?
Jytte Rex Fotoemulsion, akryl og kridt på papir, 45 x 60 cm
C.W. Eckersberg – View-of-the-Garden-of-the-Villa-Borghese-in-Rome