Luke Elwes: Along The Waterline

We are told that water constitutes around 60% of the adult human frame, and three-quarters of the earth’s surface. It is the only substance found naturally in all three states of matter: solid (ice), liquid (water), and gas (steam). In its capacity as solvent, it is the main active force of geology. Life is said to have begun in water. There are more than a hundred compound words listed after `water’ in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, my favourites being ‘water-bloom’ and `water hammer’. This exhibition is dedicated to water, its appearance and essence, its contradictions and realities. Whether the works on show are to do with what Shakespeare called “the rough rude sea”, a Norwegian flash-flood or an English pond, their common territory and subject is water, the most mysterious of the elements.

Luke Elwes (b. 1961) is a painter-traveller, making pictures which are at once about the particular places he has visited and a record of that journey into self which is the lot of the true contemplative. In his recent evocations of Osea Island off the Essex coast, Elwes maps the almost-submerged land where earth and sea not only meet but mingle intimately. He writes of the making of these elusive paintings (apparently empty yet full of detail) as encompassing “the pursuit of silence, a balance between something and nothing, that holds the eye ant stills the impulse to literal transcription”. The map is nearly erased, a distressed palimpsest; it’s difficult to decipher a single clear meaning. The viewer must, like a scryer, read the sign’ and interpret accordingly.