The Inevitability of Shadows
Unfortunately, shadows are often only seen in this context and not in the other more complex realms of human experience such as in dreams, social relationships, cultural understandings, psychology, the supernatural and indelible memories.
Shadows also play a big part in perception in art and photography where light contrasts give the surfaces of objects a sense of depth, more detail and drama. Relief isn't relief without the shadow that reveals surface texture in/on a work of art. Intaglio is meant to bring the illusion of textural depth to a surface that has been plotted in advance. If there's light, there's shadow and i'm glad of it! Below are three pictures showing a subtle mood transition of shadow on architecture. Shadow alters feeling!
Psycho-emotional or "personal" shadows echo the fears carried through experience which are directly tied to the quotidian memories of a lifetime. Shadows lurk in the recesses of the mind waiting to extend their influence into the waning light and descending darkness. Many have written of the fear encountered of every loathsome thing imagined hiding there in the shadows waiting to inflict anxiety and suffering! There is a chasm between those who wait for the twilight or the early dawn with joyous hearts and others who flee from it with a melancholic dread. This is the power of light and shadow and their convergence with human experience.
The shadows in dreams or "standing in the shadows of love," the shadows of social standing and the shadows found in relationships all haunt us in different ways. Alternatively, we may seek shelter and comfort in shadows in response to the secrets harbored deep inside and try to hide from the pain that hurt and suffering have brought. Psalm 91 states that, "Whoever dwells in the shadow of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Shadows are received by all as both "friend" and "foe" and remain a powerful agent for change. No-one can escape the ceaseless change of light from day to new day and the shadows that accompany that passage! The challenge for each one is to overcome the fear of shadows and feel the inspiration of their "beauty!"
One of my favorites is this sublime still life by the Spaniard Juan Sanchez Cotan. As far as we know he only did a few of these but they are superb, demonstrating the fantastic technical and perceptual skills that the European craftsmen had attained. The attention to detail and the innovative use of deep, rich, velvety shadow and negative space is unusual, even advanced for this time period! Don't stop here! Check out the incredible use of shadow in the work of Caravaggio. It is hard to believe the eyes sometimes. The use of shadow runs through art and culture like a ... shadow? Well, at least in the legacy of traditional Western art. References and use of "shadow" is also found in songs, poems and film and elaborately so in the "Film Noir" and "Gothic" genres. Some examples are "Kiss Me Deadly," "They Live By Night," "Rebecca" and "Rosemary's Baby."
Shadows are inspiring because they creep, slide, stretch and meander their way across every environment where there is a source of light, on manmade objects and the secret psycho-emotional recesses of the soul. Shadows are as inevitable as day and night and our response to them inwardly and externally is always a challenge.