Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Genesis 1.1-5: Chiaroscuro

God spoke: "Light!" And light appeared. (Genesis 1:3a, The Message). Light. And dark. Each needs the other in order to be defined, particularly in art. If a painting is all light, with no contrasting dark, it feels too simple, too surface. Dark alone is the same way. It is the pairing of the two - light and dark - in various ways that brings variety, and harmony to any work of art. Throughout the history of art, light and dark have been explored and exploited in various ways. 

A strong contrast of light and dark in the visual art is called chiarascuro (/kyärəˈsk(y)o͝orō/), which literally means light-dark (chiaro meaning “clear” or “bright" and oscuro meaning “obscure”' or “dark”). Seventeenth-century Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (usually just referred to as "Caravaggio"), was the painter who first made this strong contrast of light and dark into a trademark of his style. Artists who came immediately after him and followed his style were referred to as Caravaggists

Though created centuries after Caravaggio's work, the photograph of a cabbage leaf (below), embodies the ideas of chiaroscuro. The photo's background is a velvety rich darkness, and the topmost parts of the cabbage leaf are the lightest points. Between the background and the highlights is a full range of values. The gradation of light to dark is what creates a sense of three-dimensional form in the folds of the leaf. The sharp meeting of light and dark creates a hard edge that separates the dark background from the lighter leaf. It is the contrast that shows the form.
Edward Weston. Cabbage Leaf. 1931. NY: Museum of Modern Art. 
God spoke: "Light!" And there was light. By that light God saw the individual shapes and forms of what was being created. By that light we all see. God spoke, and there was light, where there only had been darkness. Jesus, the light of the world.

The word photography literally means "writing with light." In this season of Epiphany, why not try writing with light as a photographic exercise. See Art&Faith Matters on Facebook for tips.

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