Painting on water

If you have some old books at home, you might be acquainted with those decorated covers and flaps showing colorful designs that resemble marble patterns.
Paper marbling has very ancient origins, probably dating back to 2.000 years ago in China, even though the technique ultimately took hold in Japan during the Heian period (VIII-XII Century), under the name of suminagashi. The secret of suminagashi was jealously kept and passed on from father to son, among families of artists; the most beautiful and pleasant examples were used to adorn poems or sutras.

From Japan through the Indies, this method came to Persia and Turkey, where it became a refined art called ebru. Western travellers brought it back to Europe where marbled paper was eventually produced on a large scale to cover books and boxes.

Today in Turkey ebru is still considered a traditional art. Garip Ay (born 1984), who graduated from Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul, has become one of the best-known ebru artists in the world, holding workshops and seminars from Scandinavia to the United States. Thanks to his extraordinary talents in painting on water, he appeared in documentaries and music videos.

His latest work recently went viral: painting on black water, and using a thickening agent so that the insoluble colors could better float on the surface, Garip Ay recreated two famous Van Gogh paintings, the 1889 Starry night and the iconic Self-portrait. All in just 20 minutes (condensed in a 4-minute video).

The magic and wonder of this suprising exploit reside of course in Ay’s precise artistic execution, but what is most striking is the fluidity, unpredictability, precariousness of the aqueous support: in this regard, ebru really shows to be a product of the East.
There is no need to stress the major symbolic role played by water, and by harmonizing with its movements, in Eastern philosophical disciplines: painting on water becomes a pure exercise in wu wei, an “effortless action” which allows the color to organize following its own nature, while the artist gently puts its qualities to good use in order to obtain the desired effect. Thus, the very obstacle which appeared to make the endeavour difficult (the unsteady water, disturbed by even the smallest breath) turns into an advantage — as long as the artist doesn’t oppose it, but rather uses its natural movement.
At its heart, this technique teaches us a sublime lightness in dealing with reality, seen as a tremulous surface on which we can learn to delicately spread our own colors.


Here is Garip Ay’s official website, and his YouTube channel where you can witness the fascinating creation of several other works.
On Amazon: Suminagashi: The Japanese Art of Marbling by Anne Chambers. And if you want to try marbling yourself, there is nothing better than a starter kit.

16 comments to Painting on water

  1. gery says:

    Favoloso Garip Ay!

  2. fagottokorovev says:


  3. Livio says:

    Da modestissimo disegnatore non posso che dire Meraviglioso!

  4. ora12 says:

    E’ strano che da quando seguo il blog (da poco infatti) vedo che le teme sono alternate nel senso che una tema horror segue una tema sublime, e viceversa.

  5. Livio says:

    “Argomenti horror”? Della serie non abbiamo capito il senso profondo, sociologico, storico e chi ne ha più ne metta, degli articoli di questo sito… I temi sono tutti sublimi! Porta pazienza Bizzarro, col tempo, e leggendo gli articoli, capiranno…

    • bizzarrobazar says:

      Be’, dai, si capiva cosa voleva dire: i temi cupi si alternano a post più “leggeri”.
      Mi sembra di aver intuito che ora12 non sia di madrelingua italiana, nonostante scriva benissimo. Quindi qualche parola può anche non essere precisa al 100%, basta che passi il concetto. 🙂

      • ora12 says:

        Il capire non dipende soltanto dal modo di esprimersi più o meno chiaro, non è soltanto un processo deduttivo logico (meccanico), fondamentalmente è un processo interessato (non di soldi, interessato emozionalmente, che conta più dei soldi, anzi li conta i soldi). Per questa ragione certe verità li capiscano i poveri di mente, mentre l’intelletto del grande intellettuale dell’epoca fa cilecca.
        Non soltanto, volevo dire di più. Ma non ha importanza, non sono di casa, e vedo che mi sono spinto un po troppo emozionalmente.

  6. ora12 says:

    pazienza, pazienza, col tiempo capirà anche Mario Praz, La carne, la morte e il diavolo nella letteratura romantica.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.