I’ve been experimenting lately with the use of shadows in my work, using “drawings” that i have made from wire and lichen – materials which allow light to stream through their negative spaces to create interesting effects.
Traditionally, the shadow can symbolise many things…darkness, evil, a ghost, a doppelgänger, an alter ego, or a false sense of reality.
In Plato’s Allegory of the cave, the people who are chained up and are forced to look at the wall, away from the light, perceive shadows to represent reality; as they have never seen the objects which cause the shadows. To the viewer of the wall, all of reality is represented by shadows – a very skewed sense of reality.
Plato likens himself (as a philosopher) to a freed prisoner, who has “seen the light” of reality. He speaks of being blinded by the sun when he leaves the cave – this refers to the reaction of some when their beliefs are challenged or proved wrong…preferring instead to retreat back to their “prison” of what they knew before rather than to accept their new found knowledge or enlightenment.
Personally, this story raises mixed emotions – when wandering through familiar landscapes memories come flooding back. I think of how sometimes I would like to retreat back into the past…to happy, carefree times with no responsibilities, when my parents were younger and healthier, when I felt attractive and excited about what the future might hold. But the flip-side to this is the reality, the enlightenment, the ageing process, and the realisation of mortality. For this reason, I feel that working with shadows is important to my practice – their ephemeral qualities also relates to some (but not all) of the materials I use, such as the lichen, ice and plants.
The first experiment of shadow maps I made was using the wire drawings of details in the landscape, which were grouped together and hung up before a torch was shone at them.
One of the wire drawings which made up my part of my fictitious map
First attempt at illuminating the wire using a small torch
Using the torch on an iphone…the shadows become much stronger
The shadows seem like they are engulfing the small space, blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality
The shadows are definitely more dominant than the wire and when the torch is moved they seem as if they are a living and breathing entity
The ephemerality of the shadows also resounds with the fact that these maps are purely fictional, although they have been created from existing features on the walks that I sketched. They echo the landscape which is transient and ever evolving through erosion, development, the forces of nature and the events which have shaped it and are continuing to do so.
See some footage of the moving shadow to get an idea of just how 3-dimensional they appear, as if they are coming out of the wall towards you: