Ravens and Jun Ren's Sublime Water #7 at Vanier Park

Saturday January 23rd, 2010
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Jun Ren's Water Number 7 Reflects in Vanier Park. Photo by Dan Fairchild.

There’s lots of reasons to look forward to summer in Vancouver especially when we’re living through the cold winter rains of February and March.

Limitless blue skies and sunlight, open spaces with mountain views, wine on Jericho beach with friends at twilight, Stanley Park.  Longer days, the city alive with travelers, long bike rides along the seawall.

It’s an amazing time.

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Ravens are Just Chillin' with Water #7 in Vanier Park. Photo by Dan Fairchild.

One of the things about Vancouver that I am excited to see in the context of endless warmth and sunlight is Jun Ren’s Water #7.

Water #7 sits at the edge of False Creek in Vanier Park and it’s like the best kept secret of public sculpture in Vancouver.

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Ravens Take Flight as Water #7 Stretches its Wings. Photo by Dan Fairchild.

I can remember the first time that I heard about this sculpture.  It was just an idea, a few preliminary drawings and a promise.

When I asked Biennale president, Barrie Mowatt, what Water #7 would look like he poured a tiny amount of water from his drinking glass on the table.  It created a little puddle.

Then Barrie gently flicked the puddle and the water exploded like wings on the wooden table top.  “It’ll look something like that,” he said.

It was a pretty exciting moment.  And difficult to believe but pretty soon the Biennale received some photos of the piece as it was being built.

One look at those photos and you just knew that Water #7 was going to be a showstopper.  It was going to be immense and magnificent.

But… it had to be completed, then broken down, put into boxes and shipped across the Pacific to Vancouver.

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Water #7 Imitates the Clouds in the Sky at Sunset. Photo by Dan Fairchild.

Water #7 was installed in Vanier Park at the edge of False Creek as the rains came in late October to wash away the memories of summer.

It was a big and unwieldy installation process that took more than a week to complete.  A sturdy concrete base needed to be installed in the ground to support the 8 tonne structure and then the machines that lifted the piece into place ripped apart the grass.

The oncoming rains turned the entire area into a thick mud soup.

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Water #7 Bides it Time (An Imaginary Flight over the Mountains). Photo by Dan Fairchild.

So there hasn’t been a lot of talk about Water #7.  It hasn’t really had the chance to works its way into the city’s imagination.

It’s like a secret.

But as Dan Fairchild’s photos show, the grass is coming back up around it.  The ravens like it.

The piece is starting to fit into the landscape.  It’s starting to speak the language of its surroundings; sublimating the mountains, reflecting the birds in flight, forcing passersby to linger a moment in wonder.

All of this to say that Jun Ren’s Water #7 is awaiting spring and the long days of summer when the ground around it will be green and alive and it will reflect and imitate all aspects of life surrounding it.

It’s going to be amazing when it happens.

Go see it now to get a sense of the mystery, to give yourself some context for seeing it again on a brilliant summer day.

Like what you see?