Watery thoughts

Environmental artist Jeanette Scharing. Photo: Sharnae Hope.

Water is our lives – we bathe in it, we play in it, and we are it.

“If you drink a glass of water it goes through your entire body and surrounds your brain, becoming almost the same chemical content as the water in the ocean,” says Tauranga-based Swedish environmental artist Jeanette Scharing.

Despite being a complex and predominate part of our culture, water often flows through our lives unnoticed. Jeanette is shining a light on the sensitiveness of our ecosystem through her exhibition ‘Whose Water are You’ at Tauranga Art Gallery.

The installation, which has been exhibited all over the world, gathers around 100 samples of water, each with a story, that have been collected from members of the public to be suspended in glass beakers.

Each beaker will contain plant material, which will naturally start biochemical processes, reacting to what’s inside them by changing colour.

“In nature these reactions are happening all the time, but to see the change contained in glass can be quite interesting,” says Jeanette.

The water may change over time, becoming vibrant blues and oranges, or may not change at all. That’s the beauty of nature in art; Jeanette’s installations are always changing.

“If you see it one day and come another it will be completely different, with the water naturally changing over time.”

She says ‘Whose Water are You’ didn’t come from a lightbulb moment, but a journey through many years of experimenting with natural materials in art.

From this fascination with nature, Jeanette began to educate herself in art and science and collaborate with scientists, councils and governments.

“I’ve been working on water installations since 2010 and what’s most interesting for me is not so much the stories that people write about the water, but the culture and political views.”

Over recent decades, due to the increased pressure on our natural environment, water has become a highly-charged social, cultural and political resource.

“I believe water is alive and so we need to think about how sound, the area and interaction changes it.”

Jeanette says a lot of places pride themselves on their water, but the truth is water from third world countries will be our water in a few years because we live on the same earth.

“Environmentalists say in 2030, 40 per cent of the world will not have access to water or clean water.

“I think people are aware that clean water is an issue, but they don’t think that, while they are flushing waste water down the drain, wastewater may become the water they will be drinking next.”

The dynamic installation ‘Whose Water are You’ will be open for the public to view from April 14-July 15 at the Tauranga Art Gallery on the corner of Wharf and Willow Streets, downtown Tauranga.