In our lives there is a colour like that on a painter’s palette, which gives meaning to both life and art. It is the colour of love. Marc Chagall

Güler Ates: Water no longer dances with light

ArtWay Visual Meditation March 24, 2019

Güler Ates: Water no longer dances with light


by Aniko Ouweneel

Until Easter you can experience a specially for the project Art Stations of the Cross designed site-responsive installation in the canal room of the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) in Amsterdam. This new work of art by artist Güler Ates is called Water no longer dances with light. The title refers to the sea, nowadays often the background of traumatic stories of immigrants who take exceptional risks to reach a safer place.  

For months the artist collected the experiences of numerous displaced persons. She gave them time and attention and listened to their moving accounts. The stories of ‘in-between’ are written in many languages and printed in a letter type that reminds us of the great stories of Western cultural history preserved in ancient codices. In a wavy movement they fill the canal room of the Church of Our Lady.

The chamber is entirely covered with a torrent of words. Some visitors are literally unbalanced. Many sit down to be able to process the overwhelming impressions.


Amidst the tidal wave of poems and chronicles (some translated and brought together in a booklet) there are images of a veiled woman photographed in this house of prayer that is used by a Roman-Catholic as well as a Syriac Orthodox congregation. The latter call it the Mother of God Church. The enigmatic ‘middle’ in the oeuvre of the artist appears here too, the place where East and West meet.

A veil prevents classification because it covers up, while at the same time it reveals a lot. It is used in many cultures, think about the sari, the burqa or the bridal veil in the Western culture. In cultural history a veil often meant a higher rank in society. Here it can also refer to the depiction of Mary in the art history of the West.  

In this contemporary art pilgrimage this work stands for Station 6, ‘Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus’. In the Stations of the Cross, Veronica is the woman who helps Jesus persevere. She confronts us with the classic question: In whom do we invest, convinced that the person can make a difference in this world? Who can lean on us?

Güler Ates became friends with a group of displaced people. She invested in their stories and created a work of art based on their narratives. The meetings were encouraging for all (as a curator I was sometimes present) and the contacts will go on. Relationships matter.

This mysterious figure can stand for Veronica or for the woman this church is dedicated to or for an encounter between Eastern and Western cultures. Several different interpretations are possible.  

But she does open a window to another reality where the deluge of words drains away, serenity and sanctity prevail, and all cultures approach the altar welcomed by a safe and familiar embrace of light.


Güler Ates, Water no longer dances with light, 2019, new site-responsive installation, wallpaper and photography. A performance during the opening was also part of the work of art.

Güler Ates grew up in the mystic tradition of East Turkey. She is based in London and works with video, photography, printmaking and performance. One of the core elements in her work is cultural displacement. She studies the interaction of Eastern and Western cultures.

Anikó Ouweneel is a cultural historian and art curator living in the Netherlands. She has curated Art Stations of the Cross together with Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker. For more see



1. THE VISUAL COMMENTARY ON SCRIPTURE – The recently started website Visual Commentary on Scripture (King’s College, London) has recently added a number of new exhibitions to the site. These range from the Song of Solomon to the Letter to the Hebrews and include a diverse collection of artworks including a Renaissance painting by Giovanni Bellini, a modern canvas by Giorgio di Chirico and contemporary installations by Rose Finn-Kelcey and Bill Viola.

2. CALL FOR PAPERS – 31 July, Theology, Creativity and the Arts Postgraduate Study Day. The Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, 12 Grange Road, Cambridge, England. Art and its practices have long offered a powerful medium for expressing, exploring and extending themes and resources in theology. Through music, architecture, visual art, and literature, artists have played key roles in forming and nourishing, disrupting and challenging, the imaginative landscape of religion. At the same time, theology grasps art and creativity as themselves theological practices, understood as part of how we make sense of God, self, community and society. This study day will offer the opportunity to explore the resonances amongst and intersections between these ideas and practices. Key note speaker: Prof. Jeremy Begbie. Deadline for papers: 13 May.

3. INTERNATIONAL SUMMER SCHOOL IN POLAND - 22 July – 26 July 2019, University of Wroclaw, Institute of Art History, Szewska 36, Wrocław: "Visual Arts as Medium of Confessionalization". The international Summer School is intended to explore a wide range of interrelationships and interdependencies between visual arts of all kinds on the one hand and religious identity in Early Modern Europe on the other. The basis for our discussion is the paradigm of confessionalization as a notion introduced to historical studies (Wolfgang Reinhard and Heinz Schilling), however effectively applied and adapted to other disciplines of the humanities, among others art history. Starting from the assumption that confessional identity played an increasingly important role in nearly every possible aspect of European states and societies during and after the Reformations, the aim of our course is to examine the significance and role of visual arts within the processes of emergence, formation and evolution of diverse denominations in the Early Modern era. In general, our discussions will deal with a variety of issues relating to Lutheran, Reformed and Catholic confessionalization, and take into account examples of both homogeneous and multi-confessional territories and centers of the Reich and beyond its borders. The Summer School is intended for M.A. and Ph.D. students (of art history, history, theology, philosophy, literature, and related disciplines) who are interested in the visual culture and religious history of Early Modern Europe and affiliated to a Refo500 partner or RefoRC Member. 

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc. inside and outside your country, click here

ArtWay is a website with resources for congregations and individuals concerned about linking art and faith.


Other recent meditations:
- April 2019: Ludger Hinse: Crosses of Light
- April 2019: Paul van Dongen: Judgement and Rising
- March 2019: Arent Weevers and Janpeter Muilwijk
- March 2019: Erica Grimm: Salt Water Skin Boats

For more Visual Meditations, see under Artists