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break (ing) water, brake (ing) water    2012

embossed ice on paper, text, finger print.          35 (h) x 25.5 (w) x 1.8 (d)


Acquired by State Library of NSW Artist Book Collection

exhibited at abbe - artist book brisbane event  2015 - Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research, Queensland College of Art

Selected for Libris Award 2013 - Artspace Mackay

This artist book is an expression of my search for an encounter of the poetic,  through imprint and memory by means of ‘Thinking Through Practice’[1].


Using water in the form of ice as the medium, I am investigating my personal relationship of control and relinquished control and the resultant outcomes; the aleatoric mark, a concept central to the work of artist Leni Hoffmann.


            Water is a substance vital to life, full of paradox; it is life giving and life taking, it is physical and elemental and yet also holds immaterial

            qualities. Water can transport us through calm and storm; it is sensual, containing strength and fragility. It appears in many forms; solid,

            fluid and gaseous and embodies countless cultural narratives. Water can be pure or contaminated, its rhythms ebb and flow in direct

            connection with the planets. It conducts sound and refracts light, it is omnipresent.


Using water as my medium I embarked on a practice led[2] research model, consisting of three strategies, three weeks each and followed by a period of reflection and evaluation. Out of this developed my decision to use ice as my primary material.


“So let us melt, and make no noise”[3]


An artist who clearly investigates and illustrates her process in her work is Charwei Tsai. In 2009 I had been greatly  taken by a small video in GOMA of her work: Water, Earth and Air : A series of intimate installations.


A circle of ink is drawn on the top of an ice cube and filmed as it melts. Her work is described as functioning as:


     ‘a meditation on life and death, on the ephemeral nature of existence and on art-making as a process.’[4][5]


By taking ice cubes and placing them on paper in numbers and positions determined by me, I would crush them, photographically recording the process each step of the way. These embossed ice images were completely unpredictable; a single cube could produce a myriad of indentations where a group of cubes hardly registered at all.


Through this process I experienced the eloquent nature of embossing as an investigation into the hidden memory held in water by way of this metamorphosis of solid ice to empty space held forever in the paper. A void evocation of what had once been present, transformed through my actions, yet devoid of my absolute control.  

The exploration of the transitory nature of water and the erasure of ideas or thoughts was conducted by Song Dong in his work Writing diary with water 1995–present. In an ongoing performance project, Song Dong used a water dipped calligraphy brush to write daily diary entries on a block of stone, writing that slowly disappeared as the water dried, thus his thoughts remained secret [6]. 

The final  inclusion of my fingerprint s notated with significant life and death dates and symbols of glacial advance and retreat  completes this personal/global narrrative of population impact embedded in the pages of Break(ing) Wate, Brake(ing Water).

Thus, for me this work has become an expression of the effect of human interaction with, and impact on, the vital essence of water; a metaphor for my art and life practices as well as for ‘the ephemeral nature of existence’.




[1] Thinking Through Practice, L. Duxbury and E Grierson, RMIT, Vic, 2008


[2] Brad Haseman, 2006, Practice-led Research, 'A manifesto for performative research', no 118


[3] John Donne, 1633, , A Valediction: forbidding mourning, 1611 , Songs and Sonnets, The Norton Anthology of Poetry,


[4] march 2012, Charwei Tsai, Water , Earth and Air : A series of intimate installations, Presented in partnership with Queensland Art Gallery

23 October – 19 December 2009


[5]  video of Charwei Tsai, Water , Earth and Air : A series of intimate installations, 2009


[6] 23/5/12

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