The Artistic Nature of Water

Four You Gallery
March 26, 2021| Christine

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water” –  Loren Eiseley

Vibrating water captured with ultra-high-speed camera -Copyright of Linden Gledhill

Approximately 70% of the human body is constituted of water. Amazingly, around 70% of planet Earth is covered in water. Water makes up the majority of plants and animals. We are made of it. We drink it. Prepare our foods with it. Bathe in it. Swim in it. The oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, rain etc. all create environments for different plant and animal life to survive in. Water is at the heart of all life on this planet. It is a life force. It really is magical if you think about it! And what’s even more magical is the discovery that water has the ability to transform itself into art. You didn’t misread that last sentence! Water transforms into art; into different shapes, sizes, and patterns that are found in nature, which in its turn serves as many artists’ muse. And how is this possible? Two words: sound waves.

German physicist and musician Ernst Chladni, while building on earlier experiments performed by Robert Hooke in 1680, discovered that when he spread sand on metal plates then vibrated the plates with a violin bow, the sand arranged itself into patterns. And the patterns would change depending on the vibration that was being produced. After experimenting with the different patterns/shapes produced by different sound vibrations, Chladni recorded an entire catalogue of these patterns – referred to as Chladni figures. The truly wonderful part about this discovery? These patterns that are created are actually found throughout the natural world! As Nikola Tesla stated, “if you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration”. Some of the patterns/designs of Chladni figures include the markings of a tortoise, spot patterns of a leopard, and even the patterns of a sunflower.

Patterns naturally found within the sunflower plant

Physicist Hans Jenny expanded on Chladni’s work in the 1960s using water rather than sand, and coined the term ‘cymatics’, which comes from the Greek word ‘cyma’ meaning wave or vibration. Cymatics is defined as the study of vibrational frequencies, manifested as sound and seen as form.
Jenny experimented with water because it is highly impressionable; it is sensitive and readily and instantaneously responds to all types of waves. By exposing a dish of water to simple waves, you can see different the body of water transform into different patterns, the higher the frequency, the more complex the ripple pattern in the water! And these patterns that were emerging, they were not random, not even in the slightest; they were repeatable forms. The vibrations – simple repeating waves – arranged matter into these complex forms, such as the pattern of a sunflower. You want a different pattern? It’s simple: just change the frequency to get a pattern that’s of your preference! Low frequency for simple patterns and high frequency for more complex ones.

Low frequency waves create simple patterns
Higher frequency waves create more complex patterns

Approximately 70% of the human body is constituted of water. And in the digital and fast-paced day and age, we spend the majority of our days surrounded by different sounds, by different frequencies, from the sounds of traffic to the conversations we engage in, to the music we listen to, to the background noises that we don’t consciously pay attention, all of which have the power to transform water. This means that 70% of our constitution is in a constant state of creating art; creating patterns in our inner world that are found throughout the natural outer world. I personally think there’s something very poetic about this realization; about us being walking bodies of art. As Leonardo da Vinci said, ‘Learn how to see; realize that everything connects to everything else”.

Different patterns in water created by exposure to different sound frequencies

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