Thursday, May 5, 2011

Passion and patience marks a watercolorist’s oeuvre

A new exhibition at Tate Britain showcases the wide array of contexts in which the medium was used such as documentation of exotic flora & fauna on Captain Cook’s vivacious voyages, on the bloody battlefield by war artists such as William Simpson and Paul Nash and spontaneous on-the spot-recordings of lovely landscapes by Turner and John Sell Cotman. There are more famous names like Ian McKeever, Andy Goldsworthy and Anish Kapoor. It shows how the contemporary pieces form part of a larger tradition wherein watercolor has been used for visionary or abstract purposes.

Unraveling the beauty of this medium, a curatorial essay elaborates: “Ranging from loose, vibrant washes of color to precise draughtsmanship, wet sponging to scratching out, the great variety of watercolor techniques is being surveyed. The idea is to show how exhibition culture of the 19th century inspired artists to vie with one another in the pyrotechnics of sophisticated techniques, leading to artists today who continue to push the boundaries of what the medium can do.

Watercolor is considered to be one of the most commonly accessible paint media, used widely by amateurs and professionals alike. Unlike oil paint - viscous and slow-drying in nature - watercolor is cleaner, cheaper and easier to use. It hides a certain beauty and softness, and exudes a delicate touch. Watercolors tend to spread and dry easily. The various hues that can be depicted with it come across with a great vibrancy.

Before the advent of photography, the medium found favor for its spontaneity, versatility and maneuverability Artists used it to meticulously record eye-witness accounts. Watercolors have remained a preferred medium of artistic expression, owing to its spontaneity and ability to surprise. An immense amount of effort and energy goes into conceptualizing and creating works in watercolor that mystify, mesmerize and tempt both the creator and the viewer.

Passion and patience hold the keys to successful employment of watercolors. An artist cannot afford to make any mistakes while working in watercolors, since there is little luxury of wiping off the form.

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