It’s been said that in art what isn’t there is sometimes just as important as what is. There is something about things unclear, hidden, or absent that captures our attention. When faced with such mysteries, we naturally want to solve the riddle, finish the story, fill in the blank. Perhaps this is why so many artists use shadows in their work to draw us in.
Whether they are attached to figures or landscapes, the presence of a cast shadow in a composition can create many effects. Shadows can add both visual contrast and emotional depth to a two dimensional image. Along with a mastery of perspective, accurate and effective use of cast shadows is considered a milestone in the history of art.
With varying colors and length, shadows can suggest specific hours of the day or different seasons, and instantly take us to a familiar place and time. As they reach across a scene they can give a sense of human mortality or human longing, even when – perhaps especially when – human beings are not present.
Shadows cast by something not visible in the frame of the photograph or painting can be particularly haunting, implying a world continuing beyond the confines of the artwork and of our own grasp, but inviting us to use our imaginations to supply what’s missing.
At one time or another we have all played with our own shadows, but shadows can also play with us, challenging our perceptions, presenting a world of opposites and parallels, where everything has its dark twin, and who can tell which is real and which is the reflection? Without shadows, our world would not be nearly as interesting. The next time you are browsing for original art on Zatista look for the shadows!
Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.