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Shadow and Light

At night, in my living room full of plants, I fascinated explore the shadows with infinite shapes and colors reflected in the white ceiling.

These immersions under my roof are a learning experience for the eye and lead me to the book In Praise of the Shadow, which so delicately involves us in these mysteries. Junichiro Tanizaki surprises us by noting that the color appreciated by orientals is made up of layers of shadow, while Westerners prefer colors made up of layers of light. He says that the Japanese first create the shadows and then the beauty. The book walks through the interiors of Japanese houses, whose warmth is made in the gentle gradation of shadows on the paper (washi) that fills the sliding wooden panels. He tells us about objects that cast shadows on furniture and walls, and how the Japanese choose opaque surfaces. That's how their ceramics and utensils of silver and tin are patinated by time, without luster. The shine of the lacquer and the designs in gold gain balance in the dim light.

If we reverse our western reasoning of thinking about a space starting with the light and then looking for the shadow, we are faced with a variety of thick layers of shadow with countless shades of gray, the restful synthesis of all colors, until reaching strident light.

I started drawing those ceiling shadows on black paper using white pencil. The more you examine, more gradations appear and the white of the pencil sometimes gets stronger, sometimes more timid, passing through the infinite hues.

It's fascinating to reason in this way, a thought-provoking source for creating a quality place. Through the shadows we perceive the environment that surrounds us. Starting from this premise, I observe the relationship between shadow and light in the gardens I create. One can see how the intense shade of a mature tree with large leaves is different from the soft lace of a tree with small leaves crossed by the sun rays. The shade of the palm tree is light and cool. The architecture's shadow over the garden is flat and seems to be muffled between walls, while under the pergola braided by a vine, it's refreshing. All shadow colors are different in spring, winter, summer, autumn.

The evening light is for me the most beautiful. Every sunset, I feel this magic. It is the least explicit light of day and the most indecipherable. It fills the land with colored shadows with an ethereal aura, full of enigmas to be unraveled. How to bring this enchantment to a garden?

How to draw light from the shadow and how to add depth to the shadow?

This insight brought surprising nuances. The shadow color is silent, sneaky, welcoming, but it can also be sinister. That of light is explicit, vaunted, aggressive, but it can also be bright and cheerful. The magic is to understand in what gradations these sensations happen.

All these subtleties will bring us different experiences, which even though we are not aware, somehow affect our mood, bringing joy, introspection, nostalgia, anxiety, serenity, excitement. We are much more vulnerable to layers of shadow and light than we realize.

And the fascination is that the shadow, with everything it provokes, real experiences, is not palpable. It's abstract and sensory.

I rescued the inspiring reflection of my friend Sakae Ishi, who says that gardening is creating shade and humidity, because shade and humidity are sensations and only sensations feed the memory. The garden that remains in the memory is eternal.

writing, drawing and photography Isabel Duprat

video editing Claudia Ricci

July 2021


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