Italian 'swim painter' to make ripples here

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 2, 2013.

Painting a landscape while swimming might sound like an impossible task. But that is exactly what Italian artist Alberto Cristini plans to do in Singapore.

On Aug 24, the 52-year-old will swim about 2km around Tekukor Island, located roughly 1.6km from Sentosa Cove, while painting his surroundings.

The plan is to finish in less than two hours. "I hope I can do it!" the self-styled "swim painter" told The Straits Times, after a swim at a beach near Venice, Italy.

Mr Cristini is unique for another reason. He suffered from severe sclerosis when he was young and had an operation to put titanium bars in his spine.

"That's why I swim to keep fit. I never let this get me down."

Swim painting is nothing new for Mr Cristini, who also sculpts. He started in 1997, when he painted the Venetian Lagoon - on shore at first. He then got into the water for a different perspective.

Last year, he produced a painting while swimming about 3.5km across San Francisco Bay, near the infamous prison island of Alcatraz. The cold waters and strong currents there made it hard for prisoners to escape. "It feels great to achieve something like that in your lifetime," Mr Cristini said.

Sometimes, he performs with collaborators on a water craft that he pulls. "Just 15 days ago I swam 3km across the Strait of Messina in Italy, dragging three people - a poet, a musician and a co-ordinator," he said.

The Italian Cultural Institute, together with yacht club One15 Marina, organised his swim painting event as part of the club's sixth-anniversary celebrations. The public will be able to catch him when he returns to shore at One15 Marina around 4.30pm. However, they must first register with the Italian Cultural Institute at

Mr Cristini's water-themed works will be exhibited on Aug 24 and 25 at the club. "My art is born of a deep love of water," said the swim painter, who grew up in Polesine, where the Po river, Italy's longest, enters the Adriatic Sea. "When I paint in the water, the perspective at water level, at sea, is much more beautiful than that from the shore."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 2, 2013.To subscribe to The Straits Times, please go to