Continuing our theme of Bright, this week, Anna Aysea writes an evocative reflection, which is “inherently intimate, shining with the light of Being that is beyond time.”
Light is a central element of his composition, and because of his skill in how to render it, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer is called the master of light.
In a Vermeer painting, light entering through a window permeates the whole scene, gently illuminating the figure and the objects in the room, making everything almost shine with an inner glow.
Woman Reading a Letter (for a higher resolution please click on the image) depicts a quiet, private moment where a young woman is absorbed in reading a letter in the morning light. All of the colours in the composition are secondary to the radiant lapis lazuli blue of her jacket. While the objects in the room cast shadows, Vermeer has deliberately omitted the woman’s shadow, creating an ephemeral, atemporal effect, as if the figure and the act of reading are beyond time, in eternity. The luminous blue acts as a portal to draw the attention, giving the viewer a taste of that which is beyond sensory perception, the infinite nature of Being.
Through the mastery of the artist, as the viewer, we transcend the limits of the body, the limits of time and space and are pulled into the stillness, into the emanating timeless tranquillity. We expand and extend into the domestic scene, dissolving the seeming distance of the subject-object mode of perceiving. There is just the sweet intimacy of Being.
In the eighties, still the era of the Iron Curtain, travelling through Europe, my first acquaintance with a Soviet country was Hungary. I remember the extreme poverty, the other-worldly urban streets, completely devoid of any commercial signage screaming for attention.
One day, trying to find a place to eat in a suburb of Budapest, I ended up in what appeared to be a soup kitchen. It was located in a dilapidated monumental building of former grandeur. In the great hall with ceiling-high windows, people cued up for the counter where workers were dispensing plates of plain boiled beans for a few cents. Waiting in the cue with locals in ragged clothes, there was a serenity to the whole scene emphasized by the soft shuffling of feet. Light was filtering through the dirt-covered windows, clouds of vapour rising from bin-sized pans, myriad dust particles dancing in the beams of light, the worn down wooden floor, the shabby tables and chairs, the toothless old man in front, the scene was like a painting, intimate, timeless, without distinction between the mundane and the sacred.
With the abundance of spring oncoming, why not take inspiration from the master of light? Ultimately all perception is like a Vermeer painting, inherently intimate, shining with the light of Being that is beyond time.