Sufficient Light

I am fortunate enough to have a cherry tree outside my window, and so, I can watch it go through its spectacular and intriguing repertoire of costume and function changes as the year and the seasons pass. Right now, it is preparing to fruit, the tiny green seeds of the cherries have appeared, and the leaves have turned a vivid green.

I don’t own a compass, though I suspect there is something like a compass either in my computer or on the vast unmapped internet. Nevertheless, I estimate that the window that faces the cherry tree also faces approximately North. I have often heard painters and studio photographers speak of ‘North light’ as the right or best light to make pictures by, but I have never appreciated the difference between North and South light as much as I have this year.

Today I am working in the room that faces North and overlooks the cherry tree, but on other days, for various reasons, it is better for me to work in the room with the South facing window. It’s true that light from the South is warmer and more intense, but it can also be harsh and glaring as well as markedly yellow or golden. The North light is always softer, subtler, and in essence more of a blue-grey light that gently glows rather than shining avidly as does the South light.

When I was young, a child, an adolescent I used to gulp down the summer sun as if I wanted it to take me up in the air and away with it, to absorb me into its rays. I adored the way it woke me early and then reigned over the day until what should have been evening and nightfall, yet still it gleamed down, stretching and extending time into a sense of eternal freedom.

Now of course I shun the sun’s harshest rays and stay out of its direct heat, and as I grow older I come to appreciate even the sun’s feint glow on relatively dim, grey days. Now it is perhaps light in general that I love and feel blessed to be able to see. I wear reading glasses now and use another pair for what I am doing here, writing or working otherwise on a screen. It’s sad that the 20/20 vision I maintained until relatively recently has gradually given way to more varied qualities and experiences of seeing. But as I say, I feel very fortunate that I can simply look out of my window, on a morning like this, and see all that I can see, thanks to my eyes and thanks to the light.

While our movements and behaviour are restricted, as they have been recently, it makes me think of all those who are relatively restricted year-round, perhaps every day of their life, by some difference, disadvantage or disability. I think of those who are imprisoned, in one way or another, and the image and model of Anne Frank, whose house I visited once in Amsterdam, often comes back to mind.

It’s significant, and important for an artist, I think, to appreciate restrictions and limitations as helpful parameters to a practice, and it strikes me today that even if all I could do for the rest of my life was to sit at this window and watch the parallel life of the tree outside the window, echoing my own progress through the year, that would be sufficient, that should be an appropriate site of practice, of research, of analysis, and of representation.


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