Tania Kovats exhibition Oceans features water samples from every sea

Tania Kovats exhibition Oceans features water samples from every sea

Edinburgh Fruitmarket hosts show featuring bottled water samples collected by others

In 2012 Tania Kovats collected and collated water from 100 rivers around Britain. The resulting work, Rivers, was installed at Jupiter Artland as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. 'I knew I wanted to make a kind of big sister for this work, to expand my collection to include the sea,' Kovats says. From this initial idea came conversations with the Fruitmarket Gallery about an exhibition of water from the world's seas. 'I couldn't collect all the water myself, so I had to develop a network of people globally.'

Those people have sent Kovats water from around the world, which, she points out, has involved them sharing their own very personal experiences of the coast. 'It's where people go on holiday, where they recreate, where they go to cry, where they've gone on a date,' she says. 'It's something we're endlessly drawn towards. Water is such a powerfully emotive element and there are things that are not fully understood about it. It's part of the reason it's so compelling.'

The idea of 'gifting' is central to the exhibition. 'Within certain cultures you get gifted things, and you might hold on to them but they're not exactly yours. This work is built on people's generosity and their gifting of the water. The work is still mine but it wouldn't have been possible without those acts of generosity.'

The specimens will be collated by Kovats and presented in alphabetical order according to the name of each sea. 'We've just been sent a bottle of water from two Atlantic rowers, who filled a bottle of water in the middle of the Atlantic,' Kovats says. 'I think that's amazing – that they had the energy to do it. But it'll be labelled "The Atlantic Ocean" – you can't necessarily indicate just what a remote bit of water that was.'

Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 15 Mar–Sun 25 May

Tania Kovats: Oceans

A major exhibition in preparation since 2012, featuring previous work by Kovats as well as a major new work, All the Seas, which consists of bottled samples of water from all the seas of the world, collected by volunteers across the planet and sent to the gallery – check her website to see if there's a sea near you which…