Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Shadow and light


I was in a philosophical mood when planning this post and it ended up being about one of the most fundamental contrasts: shadows and light. I nature just as in beadwork, this contrast adds depth as well as mood. In beadwork and jewellery one can use textures and oxidizing to add shadows. One can use polished metal and sparkling crystal to add rays of light. While matte dark beads or other materials absorb the same light. And one can use transparent beads or plique a jour to let light shine through the work.




Something that makes a big difference in the mood this play between light and darkness creates is what position the one is in relations to the other. With the darkness and shadows in the front and light further away there is a "light in the end of the tunnel", you pass through the dark to enter something warm and inviting. A beacon guiding you through the dark. Or it can give you a feeling of gazing in on a hidden treasure, peeking through a keyhole. You are on the outside looking in, but while it might be a secret garden or lost paradise, you are not necessarily looked out, it might just be the gate to the paradise welcoming you in.



With the opposite, standing in the light looking towards the shadows there is a different feeling, one of facing the unknown, not knowing what lays hidden beyond the border between the light and the darkness. It is wilderness, looming and possibly dangerous, so different from the open, light and controlled fields and meadows. That juxtaposition is often visible in art and seen as just what I mentioned above: shadows as the unknown, the wild, the uncontrollable, the dangerous, the threatening; light as the controllable, the cultivated, the known and harnessed, the familiar, the benign. A classic dualism in e.g. theories on man's relationship with nature. Or rather the two natures: the one controlled by man and the one not in control.





But of cause, the shadows don't have to be scary, they can also invite you to an adventure into the darkness, wilderness, the unknown. You know there is another world behind that curtain of shadows, if only it is a wild of dim light, bird song, new smells, leaves under your feet and a buzzing animal life. It is inticing, exciting.




There is another type of light-shadow mix in nature as well. A most beloved one: the sheer shadows under a not too dense forest or grove with light shining down through open spaces between the leaves in the canopy. This is the perfect place for humans to live, shielded but still open, and thus it is said by some that we by instinct are attracted to these surrounding. We love these places because there is something in our genes saying this is the place to be.




If we get closer to the flora, we also see this play between the dark and the bright in the flowers. Which is a great thing for a photographer as it makes it easier to capture the beauty of the flower, of the colourful and delicate petals, without the background competing for attention.



And, as above, you can use backlight to make petals and leaves appear luminous and more sheer -- this is how plique a jour and transparent beads can work.



Of cause there is another thing to the mood shadow and light create that is not just about their positions: proportions. What is most dominant? Much light makes the darkness less frightening, much shadows give a darker mood. And as mentioned above, the intensity also makes a big difference: is it light shadows as with the darkness below the oaks and aspens or the dark, dense shadow under a rock or an unruly forest? A light shadow is the shade protecting you from a harsh sun while a dark shadow is cold and eerie. A sharp light also intensifies the shadows unlike a soft light.

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