There are few elements that have been anthropomorphised as much as water. Whether it’s a chuckling stream or a raging tsunami, it’s not hard to feel that even the humblest river has emotions all of its own. Perhaps this is unsurprising: after all, about 60% of the human body is water, surely that makes us second cousins at the very least. Barring the recently suffocated, you don’t get that many people composing paens to oxygen; but something about running water speaks to our humanity on an inner level.
'Crimson Dusk' & 'Silvered Reeds'
acrylic and resin on abraded aluminium, 122 x 183 cm
In the work of David Kessler however, running water becomes something wild, unknowable and defiantly alien. His works take from the photorealist tradition, but his approach to hyperrealism sees him explode that style inwards; with crystalline waterscapes that burn with a striking psychedelic power. Painted over a surface of abraded and polished aluminium, the series attain a unique quality that sees light seem to reflect and animate the water as it would its real-life counterpart, thanks to the reflective and absorbent properties of the metal and paint.
'Shadow Line' acrylic and resin on abraded aluminium, 91.5 x 112 cm
In 'Shadow Line', that light whorls and snarls beneath the reflective surface. The shadow of the trees doubled in the water looks more like blackened coral than something so prosaic as a reflection, all drowned beneath a hallucinatory slick of purple and blue. Underneath, the canyons of light on the river bed stretch out like questing tendrils, disconcertingly organic. There is nothing unusual about the scene portrayed in the picture, Kessler has recreated the reality of the scene to a striking degree; yet the comfortable emotions commonly associated with a babbling brook seem insufficient, insipid as a response. The feelings that rise in the beholder instead are unexpected and almost disorienting.
'Quick Current' & 'Leaf Drift'
acrylic and resin on abraded aluminium, 122 x 122 cm
'Transparent Cross Current' acrylic and resin on abraded aluminium, 91.5 x 122 cm
Kessler has been developing his unique approach to hyperrealism for over twenty-five years and the visual effect that he has perfected is transformative at every level. With 'Transparent Cross Current', he takes a minute snapshot of a darting current and fills it with fervid, unearthly life. The ripple of the current bulges in a lattice of broken fractal lines like a jellyfish erupting through a shattered cage. Bubbles froth like natural champagne whilst beneath the water the stones of the river bed are afire like a countless clutch of swivelling reptilian eyes. In stark contrast to this surging chaos, other works of his conjure instead a heartbreakingly unreal calm and beauty. 'Twilight Skip' instead sees Kessler transform dusk-lit ripples into something ethereal, almost gaseous, an endless inward breath of calm; lit with the fluffy gold of reflected clouds. The images are nature at its best, but there is something about that nature that feels extra-terrestrial as much as it seems familiar.
'Twilight Skip' & 'Winter Drift'
acrylic and resin on abraded aluminium, 112 x 163 cm
If you were to take all the water that snakes across the planet’s surface and pour it together, the volume of that sphere would be 332,500,000 cubic miles. Whilst the old adage holds that it’s the still waters that run deepest, Kessler’s art plumbs strange fathoms that seem bottomless.
- Max Feldman
'Sedona Cross-Section' acrylic and resin on abraded aluminium, 46 x 152.5 cm
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