Oil on linen
| Daylights: Alberti's window in Brunelleschi's mirror |
"As the moon does, by wanting light to give:
But then renew I could not, like the moon;
There were no suns to borrow of.”
- William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens
I have admired the ‘image-objects’ of Minimalism and the ‘finish-fetish’ of the Light
and Space movement (LSM). Both have had a long-lasting influence, still present
today in the work of many contemporary artists.
Visual art's old paragone* has never been settled, despite various movements
spawned to shift the battle grounds. The literal space of Abstract Expressionism, a
reaction to illusory space, became the "real space" of Minimalism. But the old debate
had returned again and with LSM, no-one seemed to notice that it had simply shifted
back and forth between space and light. Both however, require an observer, a
theatricality that was fully embraced, despite the very long history of the argument.
Since the Renaissance, the discourse had now come full circle. The reflected light of
God - as Deus Artifex - that Filippo Brunelleschi had seen in the virtual space of his
mirror was that very light, the same one framed in Leon Battista Alberti’s gridded
window; that had helped to secularise the science of optics.
*Paragone is a debate from the Italian Renaissance in which one form of art
(architecture, sculpture or painting) is championed as superior to all others.
Leonardo da Vinci's treatise on painting, noting the difficulty of painting and
supremacy of sight, is a noted example.