Giles Waterfield

I heard the upsetting news of the death of author, gallerist and historian Giles Waterfiled this morning. I am here in Florence, launching the book [Perimetri Perduti] that he contributed to – not only through his kind support of the project and encouragement – but also in the form of a perfectly succinct and concise text that speaks of undocumented evidence and traces. Giles refers to the sad lack of proof left throughout Florence (traces of a nature less formal than plaques or reportage) of the city’s flood of fifty years ago. One that threatened to repeat over this dark weekend as the Arno raged and the city grew feverish.

The same cannot be said of the marks (in this case impact of great cultural significance) that Giles etched onto our earth. No zealous citizen (as he puts it in the below text) can erase his words. A truly inspiring person who touched many, many lives and who I wish I’d known better, and who will live on in many forms of inspiration through his life’s work. I know that the British Institute of Florence (and particularly its director Julia Race) will be thinking of him, it’s thanks to the Institute that we met and his voice was added to Perimetri Perduti. I know also that his dear friend Candia (McWilliam) will be, whose words are now bound with his for good.

A friend sent this article, for your further reading. I've released on this blog below, his text from the book, A Vestige. Read in full screen by clicking the spreads below.

David Cass on Instagram

Instagram is an effective platform for me to present to you my paintings, alongside research, works in progress, new-media works and studio images. It's not as easy to simultaneously present each facet of one's artwork within the structure of a website. It's also important for me that you see where everything comes from. 

This week, you can see the most recent developments in my Florence flood project, as I prepare to transport works from the series (and the book Perimetri Perduti) to Florence. This week I'm also managing the instagram account of arts organisation Creative People in Florence: @creativepeopleinflorence. On their account I'm posting my 1966 flood research, videos, documentation of ephemera and Florence studies. 

Perimetri Perduti: The Book

I'm delighted to present Perimetri Perduti. This has been a massive task, but absolutely worth it. The book will be launched in the British Institute of Florence during November 2016 (opening Nov 4th), and in The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh soon after (January 20th). 

A massive thank you to all those who have contributed to the book, and supported it, you know who you are I hope.

A combination of records of and responses to the catastrophe of November 1966, Cass’s thoughtful and moving pieces are all the more powerful in that they are made by someone who was not yet born when the flood waters hit Florence.
— Julia Race: Director of the British Institute

Perimetri Perduti by David Cass

Perimetri Perduti by David Cass

Perimetri Perduti by David Cass

A Fragile Sense of Place

Two Thames Barrier studies (each approx 11 x 8 cm unframed: gouache on card)

If not for the Thames Barrier, during periods of extreme high tide and severe weather, London would look very different. The Royal Watercolour Society - for its Autumn exhibition 2016 - has briefed members to create artworks that explore the notion of a sense of place, specifically within the location of London. To me, a sense of place is something sensed and not usually identifiable, it's something intangible, a culmination of emotional and sensorial reactions to a physical environment to which I am connected. But taken literally, the event of physical inundation - a flood for example - can completely destroy one's sense of place within a location they [once] understood. 

When a river bursts its banks, its 'wetted perimeter' is no longer where it should be. As water travels upward and outward, the map of the city changes dramatically. A rise in water level even of only a few inches can mean the difference between ground level, and the invasion of someone's house. Worryingly, the Thames Barrier has been in 'record' use in recent years (from early December 2013 to the end of February 2015, its steel gates were closed "a record-shattering 50 times, preventing the river from running riot. Previously, the barrier had closed only 124 times since it began operating in 1982" - The Guardian).

As we are witnessing ever more frequently, in locations around the world, London is not alone in being vulnerable to flooding. A storm surge generated by low pressure in the Atlantic Ocean sometimes tracks eastwards past the north of Scotland and may then be driven into the shallow waters of the North Sea. The surge tide is funnelled down the North Sea which narrows towards the English Channel and the Thames Estuary. If the storm surge coincides with a spring tide, dangerously high water levels can occur in the Thames Estuary, and if not for the Thames Barrier system, London would face a frequent and dangerous set of issues.

The threat has increased over time due to continuous rise in high water levels over the centuries and the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and west, and down in the south and east) caused by post-glacial rebound. The barrier was originally designed to protect London against a very high flood level up to the year 2030, after which the protection would decrease, whilst remaining within acceptable limits. At the time of its construction, the barrier was expected to be used 2–3 times per year. It is now being used over 7 times per year.

In the 1928 Thames flood, 14 people died. After 300 people died in the UK in the North Sea flood of 1953, the issue gained new prominence. Early proposals for a flood control system were stymied by the need for a large opening in the barrier to allow for vessels from the London docks to pass through, the Thames Barrier was eventually completed in 1982.

Two of my Thames Barrier Studies will be exhibited as part of London: A Sense Of Place, in Bankside Gallery 7th October - 5th November.

1928 Thames Flood

Feature: Conservation & Contemporary Art, Reina Sofia Madrid

Conservación de Arte Contemporáneo 16ª Jornada

Spanish art conservationist Alicia García (working most recently with the Museo del Prado) presented a protocol that she has constructed to archive current artworks for the future in this important publication (and lecture series) commissioned and led by the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. In collaboration with the team of an artists' residency in rural southern Spain – Joya: arte + ecología – and artist Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar who co-authored this book, Alicia set the location of this eco-residency as her testing ground, and I'm delighted to have been featured in the publication as a subject (p31). The totality of the artworks I created in this arid-zone in Almería were temporal - time based - and so documentation was vital. The success of these artworks will hang on the strength of their documentation. 

Authors: Carlota Santabárbara, Arianne Vanrell, Lydia Frasquet, Mª Teresa Pastor, Alicia García, Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar, Elena García, Laura Limatola, Rosario Llamas, Camilla Vitti, Luiz Antonio Cruz, Magali Melleu, Katarzyna Zych, Ana Cudell, Heidi Belisario, José Frade, Paulo Magalhaes, Laura Castro, Carla Felizardo, Ana Calvo, Ana Martins, Pino Monkes, Fernando Marte, Mª Teresa Pastor, Camilla Vitti, Mario Anacleto de Sousa, Rosario Llamas, Sharon Avery-Fahlström, Juan Antonio Sáez, Christian Adrián, Humberto Durán, José Manuel Pereira, Almudena Rolle, María del Carmen Bellido, Maite Martínez, Isidre Sabater, Isabel álvarez, Rosalía Fernández, Enara Artetxe | Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

Florence Flood Aftermath

Inch by inch, the filthy floodwaters lowered, as daylight gradually left Florence on 4th November 1966. Oily black perimeter lines marked the water’s journey down façades: from a height of four adults in Santa Croce, each stage of this slow recession was charted in level horizontal lines of varying thicknesses. This process was repeated, unbelievably, over hundreds of acres. Clocks throughout the city sat stationary, reading 7:26 AM, when power in the city had been lost as the force of the inundation took hold that morning.

As toxic muddy diesel and oil-infused sludge settled on pavements and roads of deep clay as daylight broke the following morning, Florentines searched for lost family, friends, neighbours and pets, as upturned cars bleated from short-circuited horns. “Steel blinds were twisted like paper”, records artist James Hogg. Antique furniture lay strewn across streets. The Ponte Vecchio was in danger of collapsing, having been stripped to a near skeleton, like the carcass of a whale stretched out between two banks. 

The force of the inundation had been relentless as it pounded streets, ripping apart ground floors and basements, shopfronts, signs, generators, garages, cars. It tore the city apart from the ground up over the course of an entire day. The devastating and deadly force of black water. Had it not been Armed Forces Day on the 4th (a national holiday), the streets would surely have been busier as the tides entered the ancient city early in the morning. 

I've dedicated the last couple of years to researching and responding to this catastrophic historical event (drawing parallels with 'extremes' of today). Through this research I've come across all sorts of ephemera (newspaper articles and clippings, magazine features and appeals for help, short-run flood related publications...) but by far the best is these photographs. I purchased this set of prints on last year, from a vendor who did not know the history or provenance of their lot. I've asked around and searched extensively for evidence of these images (by an unknown photographer) in other archives, with no results. If you know anything about these images please do get in touch. I'll be featuring a selection of these scanned prints in my book 'Perimetri Perduti' set for launch on November 4th this year: the 50th anniversary of the flood.

Be a part of my new book!

Press Release:

Artist David Cass has been asked to produce an exhibition and book to mark the 50th year since Florence's Great Flood of 1966. Set to launch in the British Institute of Florence, within the Lanfredini Palace, this not-for-profit exhibition and book will act as important tools in describing the history of this catastrophic inundation.

Cass is seeking text submissions from writers and artists alike - not to mention any enthusiastic person with a connection to, or passion for, Florence.

Though this opportunity is unpaid, you will have the opportunity to have your text published in a professionally designed and printed book, and dispersed to a wide audience both in Scotland and Italy (thanks to Edinburgh's historical ties with Florence). You will also be described as a contributor to the exhibition that accompanies the publication.

Please get in touch through the contact page of this website, and read a bit more in the post directly below.

The working title for the book is currently Perimetri Perduti or Perimeters Lost and suggests the upheaval and devastation the flood caused, bringing Florence - an arts mecca - to its knees. The legacy of the flood lives on today, and draws parallels with more recent extremes in weather.

Send submissions to: by the end of July 2016 for initial consideration. Please do not exceed 1500 words, unless discussed beforehand via email.

Permetri Perduti: Book Project Update

I am seeking text submissions from individuals to contribute to a book which aims to raise awareness; to describe the events of early November 1966; and to draw upon the past and present significance of the ‘Great Flood’.

Maybe you lived through the inundation or know someone who did. Maybe you travelled to Florence to help in the rescue effort. Maybe you have a relationship with Florence and wish to describe how the history of this catastrophic event shapes (shaped) your vision of the city. I would like to hear from you, whether you are a writer or not! All writing styles will be considered for inclusion: from descriptive texts to poetry.

Set to launch on the 50th anniversary of the flood (to the day), this is a book about a city transformed: boundaries and city-limits lost; the familiar rendered unfamiliar. Overspilled perimeters: the Valdarno dams burst and the Arno overflowed, the homes and lives of Florentines ferociously attacked. The flood irreversibly changed Florence, bringing the city - a mecca of the art world - to its knees. Read within the above document a blow-by-blow description by renowned author David Hewson, who kindly donated his time to this project.

Normal submissions are now closed. Thanks to the many artists and authors who sent texts! The project is ongoing, and if you have an experience you'd like to share, please email

Surface: Exhibition Photography

Gayfield Creative, Edinburgh. A set of paintings that explore the concept of the surface. Created using non-traditional methods and painted on unconventional surfaces, these repetitive, layered artworks are unified by their exclusive depiction of water. From heavily layered oil paintings created outdoors over several years, to miniature gouache artworks painted on matchboxes or coffee grinder drawers.

The exhibition (and ongoing series) features images of water surveyed whilst travelling: the Atlantic from Cádiz, the Adriatic from Dalmatia, the Mediterranean from Liguria. Many too, are abstracted visions of the English Channel ('Mor breizh') - the strip of water I must cross to reach France, Belgium, Spain and Italy - where I source the materials and supports upon which I works. From Paris’ plethora of antique shops to Brussels’ frequent flea-markets, I source and gather every-day items (wooden, metal, and paper planes) suitable to be brought back to the studio and transformed into the foundation of each artwork.

These are artworks made from ordinary objects that speak of function and familiarity: tabletops, drawer bases, trunk lids, roadsigns, books & papers. Aged items and objects that describe a lifetime of use in their worn grains – a kind of repetition that is mirrored in the marks of each piece, the obsessive documentation of a singular subject.

Spring 2016

These coming weeks are shaping up to be the busiest I've yet experienced since becoming self employed in 2010. I'm working on exhibitions that are several months in the future, whilst also distributing as yet unseen 2015 artworks into venues now.

My key focus at the moment is working to secure funding for a solo exhibition in Florence this coming November. If you follow me on social media I'm sure you'll have viewed my recent Florence in Flood sketches. I'm delighted at the level of public engagement this project has so far enjoyed, and am excited to work with the British Institute Florence to build this informative exhibition within the walls of Palazzo Lanfredini.

Back to the present and my next solo exhibition will be in new organisation Gayfield Creative, based in Gayfield Square, Edinburgh. The exhibition will feature found-object based water paintings exclusively. Water has become the main focus of my practice: from straight depictions of sea, pools, reservoirs; to studies that explore flood-zones. The exhibition 'Surface' will exhibit more of an informal nature than my usual displays, featuring experimental works as well as works in new media.

Other current and upcoming dates include Rome Media Art Festival in Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo - MAXXI, Rome; Till It's Gone in MoMA Istanbul; The Royal Watercolour Society's Contemporary Competition in London, and a mixed group exhibition in Crinan Fine Art, Argyll.

Awarded the Winsor & Newton First Prize at the RWS

I'm delighted to have received the Winsor & Newton First Prize at this year's Royal Watercolour Society 'Contemporary Competition'. The prize was awarded for one of my Florence in flood artworks. The exhibition runs until 16th March in Bankside Gallery, London, right next to Tate Modern.

Ocean Postcards

Wherever I travel, I make sure to spend as much time at the coast as possible. Here are a few seascape examples. Created in Croatia, France, Italy, Spain...



Basilica of San Frediano

Exaggerated Inundation in Lucca • Based on imagery of Lucca's 1996 flood • 9 x 14cm • Available for purchase


19th June 1996: Flash-flood in Lucca, Tuscany

I spend one day a week researching as part of my Florence in flood project - there's always new facts to discover (and new ephemera to source and purchase) relating to the November 1966 flood that's occupied my practice for the last couple of years. This research informs and supports my painted artworks. During this week's reading I came across news articles describing inundations in the province of Lucca in 1996 - somewhere I've visited regularly over the last few years. Caught completely off guard, the region endured severe flooding: one of the strongest flash-floods in history (in the Apuan Alps) according to EU MetStat. Several small villages in the foothills of the Appenines were literally ripped apart by the fierce floodwaters.

View archival news footage here

Read more here

Profili Sommersi (Faces of the Florence Flood of 1966)

As a whole, my artworks tend to avoid straight-forward depiction of the human form. Traces are often evident in my landscape work: evidence that man indeed exists in the environments I paint. However for this project (Florence and the flood of November 1966) I feel that I can't escape the great human tragedy that the city (and its surrounding area) endured. Partly inspired by iconic renaissance portraits (mostly from the Uffizi gallery, whose collection bore the brunt of the 1966 floodwaters), I've started work on a series of paintings of semi-submerged Florentines.


Sketch Based On: Portrait Of A Girl With Book, Agnolo Bronzino (1545) • Pencil + Gouache On Antique Paper (January 2016)

Above Sketch Based On: Portrait Of An Old Man, Filippino Lippi (1457 - 1504) • Pencil + Gouache On Watercolour Paper (January 2016)

Profile Sommersi (Working Title) • Watercolour, Acrylic & Gouache on Antique Postcard (2016)


David Hewson: Author of 'The Flood'

In collaboration with The British Institute Florence, I'm putting together an exhibition that looks at the history of Florence's 1966 Great Flood. I've been working on this project for around three years now, and hope that its climax will fall on the month and year that mark the 50th anniversary of this catastrophic event: November 2016. Below, internationally renowned author David Hewson (The Killing) describes his own critically acclaimed response to the flood, in relation to my project:

"In a single night in November 1966 the birthplace of the Renaissance was reduced to a sea of mud as the Arno burst its banks, engulfed some of the most famous and historic buildings and sights in Europe and took the lives of more than thirty people."

"And yet, as I discovered when I came to write a novel partly set during this extraordinary period, the event is now largely forgotten outside Florence itself, overshadowed in the public imagination by the dreadful aqua alta in Venice at the same time. The city, its stalwart people, and the thousands of angeli del fango who flocked to Florence to help the city recover deserve better. During many visits to the city while I was writing The Flood I was astonished to see how the disaster continues be visible on the face of the twenty first century city, from the signs in the street marking the level of the water down to more subtle effects, among them the restoration of the damaged masterpieces in the Brancacci Chapel to remove the prudish additions of earlier centuries."

Four years on from working on The Flood David Cass’s evocative paintings took me straight back to that terrible night in November 1966, a timely reminder of the fragility of beauty against the elements of nature, and the defiant human spirit that swept away the mud and restored Florence to glory. I hope they find a place in the heart of the city fifty years on from the events that inspired them.
— David Hewson

Find out more about David Hewson's The Flood by following this link

"Quest'Arno! Quest'Arno!"

After a prolonged period of intense rain during the first days of November 1966, in the early hours of November 4th (49 years ago today), two dams north of Florence began to propel water at great speed towards the city. Florence was rapidly inundated as the Arno spilled over, rushing to fill every part of the city. Mud, oil, fuel and filthy water spread through Florence - at it's peak reaching 22 feet in Santa Croce, covering almost 7000 acres in and around the city. By the evening of that same day the waters began to recede, leaving behind some 600,000 tons of mud and debris, and utter devastation - to the city, and to its inhabitants.

I first visited Florence in late 2010, on a Royal Scottish Academy scholarship. I've returned regularly since 2010, and my artistic response to the city has gradually developed. Inspired by artist James Hogg's set of letters written from Florence during November 1966 (published in Dear Eddie & Popp - by S.A.C.I.) my Florence in flood artworks are as much an attempt to introduce a new topic to my practice, to my audience, as they are explorative responses to the history of this catastrophic event.

Many of these watercolours are literal depictions, however, taken as a whole, these pieces imagine and exaggerate. I began creating these artworks during late 2013 / early 2014: 47 years after the flood which claimed over 100 lives; rendered 50,000 homeless; damaged 14,000 works of art, plus up to 4 million books & manuscripts. Traces of that day in 1966 can still be seen around the city: etched into plaques placed over head-height on the streets, proof of where the black water reached. Oil stains can still be seen too, in parts of the city which weren't scrubbed clean.

Artist Stephen Kavanagh and I presented a series of paintings, sculptural works and film in Florence's SACI gallery (Studio Art Centres International) - part of the show "Quest'Arno! Quest'Arno!"

In July I exhibited a large series of watercolours in Edinburgh's The Scottish Gallery entitled Tonight Rain, Tomorrow Mud. I'm still working on this series, and hope to return to exhibit in Tuscany next year, to mark the 50th year since the flood.

See more:


Paris in Flood

I've worked on my Florence in Flood series since 2012. During that time, I've researched other 'great floods' on mainland Europe. I've recently started to look further into the history of Paris' 1910 flood.

In late January of 1910 the ‪Seine‬ rose eight meters above it's ordinary level, after weeks of heavy rainfall. The waters didn't overflow the river's banks within the city, but flooded Paris through tunnels, sewers, and drains.

Back to the Studio

I've spent the last year travelling on mainland Europe. I closed my Edinburgh studio last July, and took a break from my studio practice and from full-time painting. My aim was to spend time experimenting, to add new media to my practice. I've spent a great deal of time working in Spain (with arts organisation Joya: arte + ecología), and in Italy (where I've been working on my Florence in Flood project). I've introduced film and photography into my practice, new tools to sit alongside my brushes that will now go on to inform and support my painted practice now.

Since returning I've exhibited in The Scottish Gallery – an exhibition entitled Tonight Rain, Tomorrow Mud which I created before leaving my Edinburgh studio last year – and in Tatha Gallery’s summer show.

And so to start off this new phase of work, I've rebuilt this website, with the help of Open Horizon Studio. I’ve also put together a simple photography and documentation website:

I'm excited to throw myself back into painting, I've refreshed my approach and added new environmental topics to my areas of interest: to combine with my love of recycled objects. I believe it's vital for visual artists to take time away from intensive studio work, to explore new mediums, new concepts. I've learned new skills and introduced new topics into my work that I hope will make for richer series' of works...