Water aesthetics

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Supplied photo courtesy of Sean Ruttkay 

A reception for Sean Ruttkay’s exhibit, The Aesthetic of Water, will be held Thursday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. in the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Randall Library.

With his first installation on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, local artist and UNCW alumnus Sean Ruttkay chose to showcase his interpretation of an everyday subject matter — water.
A surfer, waterman, former Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue lifeguard and founder of Elemental Digital Art, Ruttkay said his water photography springs from things he finds in nature every day. 

“A lot of times I am out there without a camera, just surfing and thinking about these things in terms of why is this beautiful and what about this moment is beautiful,” Ruttkay said. “Then when I internalize that and take it to the camera later on I remember those points and come to that moment.”

Ruttkay’s installation of six prints is located in UNCW Randall Library’s Second Floor Gallery. He will talk at the gallery reception on Thursday, Sept. 26. Although his art is surf-centric, Ruttkay believes everyone has some form of positive stimulation from water imagery.  

“I have an intuition that everyone believes water can be beautiful,” he said. “I think it is because water goes back to our essence as far as survival and from the time of our beginning as humans we have always wanted to be around water and surrounded by water, and over time that has become engrained in our subconscious.”

Incorporating a technique Ruttkay said is unique to his style, he applies physical texture to the portions of the photos that match that texture visually. 

“I go the extra step in this particular show in that the content of the imagery is not only water, but the mediums I use and the application of texture draws out a three dimensional illusion,” he said. “The way I go about doing that is applying a thick gloss texture to glossy elements of the visual texture so I match visual texture with physical texture to draw out the striking elements.”

The goal of this three-dimensional illusion is to immerse the viewer, Ruttkay said, adding that he is experimenting with ways to incorporate sound, taste and smell into his still images of water for future installations. 

“Visually [water’s] infinite colors, forms, textures and sounds have the power to stimulate minds, change moods, and even heal the sick,” Ruttkay said. “This is why reproducing the powerful optic beauty of water is the mission of my work.”

In addition to displaying his works in galleries, retail shops and restaurants around Wilmington, Ruttkay said he wants to have his water photography in as many offices and healthcare facilities as possible because of the positive energy water imagery can bring to a space, he said. 

“There is another side to this that I believe is beneficial to society,” he said. 

The Aesthetic of Water reception and lecture will begin at 6 p.m. Sept. 26, in Randall Library’s Second Floor Gallery. For more information visit

email cole@luminanews.com 

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