The Art of Science: Spencer Finch and the Color of Water

finch-iwanbaan-700There’s an old saying that we never step in the same river twice, but the relentless pace of change in something we see every day still has the power to startle. In 2009, artist Spencer Finch captured a 700-minute period in the life of the Hudson River in New York City. The resulting artwork was called The River that Flows Both Ways.

“From a tugboat drifting on Manhattan’s west side and past the High Line, Finch photographed the river’s surface once every minute. The color of each pane of glass was based on a single pixel point in each photograph and arranged chronologically in the tunnel’s existing steel mullions. Time is translated into a grid, reading from left to right and top to bottom, capturing the varied reflective and translucent conditions of the water’s surface. The work, like the river, is experienced differently depending on the light levels and atmospheric conditions of the site. In this narrative orientation, the glass reveals Finch’s impossible quest for the color of water.” (source)

In 2011, Finch did a similar project in Folkestone, on the southern coast of England, taking photos of the sea over a period of weeks and using them to create a color wheel and 100 flags dyed in the various shades of the water under different conditions of light and weather.

Finch’s work, poised between scientific and artistic documentation, invites us to reflect on change as a constant. It also reminds us that virtually all of the seemingly fanciful shades that artists use to portray the earth, sea and sky are, in fact, found in nature.

More at Spencer Finch’s website.

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