Two books have made a deep furrow in my visual world lately. It took some time to register that, and now I am not sure if I started to take more time to look at things before I encountered these books, and that is the reason why they had such an impact or the other way around.
The first book is a series of essays about Japanese aesthetics In Praise of Shadows by the Japanese author and novelist Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. It talks about paper and toilets and writing instruments and theatre and how the path of a country is altered, how progress and cultural cross-pollination bring development and growth and also confusion, departure, and loss. And that all of these are inevitable, destructive and creative, and hard to accept yet are happening and therefore are already a part of life.
The second book is Hammershøi in Europe - it is a collection of paintings by a Dutch painter Vilhelm Hammershøi. I saw some works by Hammershoi in other books before but never noticed them or looked at them as I did after reading "In Praise of Shadows". There are studies, portraits, and landscapes and also glimpses at the shadows under the table, the light reflected in a lacquered cabinet sofa, a cup on the table, painting on the wall, roof shingles, and tree branches. And windows and doorframes and backs of the chairs and people.
These books for me are in a conversation about different ways to see light, about liminal spaces between the light and shadow, about very subtle feelings between places and periods of time, about a multitude of choices that were made and not made, and possibilities and delights of noticing. Perhaps it has something to do with my love for dust mites dancing in the sunbeams.
I've been re-drawing some Hammershoi paintings to discern them deeper.