Friday, March 18, 2011

Northern Light

I’ve been looking at paintings by Scandinavian artists from a 1988 exhibition catalog called, Northern Light Nordic Art at the Turn of the Century, by Kirk Varnedoe. The depiction of daylight, sun, sky, reflected skylight, shade, and shadows is intense and extraordinary. The sun, in these paintings, always seems to have passed by, settled below the horizon, or is in some way unreachable. Its light is typically seen by reflection: in a distant sky just after sunset, sneaking toward the foreground in the surface of a lake, stretching across a floor or wall, or touching window sills and jambs; but it has passed by and cannot be seen. In painted landscapes, a lake stretches the light of the sky into the foreground, a, distributing colors into the landscape and against the land. Inside buildings, the light is set against dark or dim surfaces and comes to us from back rooms and around corners, but the source is still unreachable.

The light in these paintings represents how it occurs in Nordic landscapes. It is sparse for a good part of the year but lengthy in midsummer when it lasts and lasts, joining one day to the next. When it appears, the sun is relatively low in the sky, so its light slides across horizontal surfaces and brightens people’s faces and leaps off of glass and highly reflective objects.

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