In Praise of Shadows
Vincent Van Gogh is quoted, "I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day."
I just finished reading In Praise of Shadows by Jun' ichiro Tanizaki, first published in Japan in 1933 and 1934. It is a thought-provoking look at electric light as an intrusion on daily life and traditions. It eloquently presents the perspective of a novelist - not an artist or a lighting designer or an architectural professional - on light. He makes a solid case for the enhanced beauty of materials such as lacquer and gold leaf in the shadows where even a frail glimmer of light generates a vibrant sparkle, as opposed to bright light, where luster is totally flattened. He laments, "So benumbed are we nowadays by electric lights that we have become utterly insensitive to the evils of excessive illumination." One example he cites, "people will light the lights, then switch on an electric fan to combat the heat. The very thought annoys me."
Fast forward eighty years.
We have now illuminated most of the inhabited planet, some of it beautifully, other bits garishly. For whatever reason we seldom pause to appreciate the dark but are drawn to light like moths to flame, myself included. Since reading In Praise of Shadows I will accept Tanizaki's challenge (and Van Gogh's) to find the richness and beauty in darkness. As a lighting designer I will do my part to keep the stars visible so that I, my children, and the generations to come can see them...and dream.
Van Gogh also said, "For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."
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Lisa J. Reed, lighting designer and Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC