The shadow our brother, our sister,
which accompanies us through life.
Photo: Juraj Lipták
So blackness reigns in the depths
of the universe and light can
partly only illuminate this.
A shadow is not flat but spreads out radially
Only through the reaction between light and shadow can we appreciate objects as structural bodies.
They are mysterious and sometimes transform the object which has given them life into something demonic.
Shadows are witnesses of the encounter between the material world and a world in which material things
only play a minor role.
The shadow has always played an important part in our lives. From the very first we have never been able to get away from it but still we tend to ignore it. Even though our paths often meet we rarely mention it. What exactly is this “dark nothing”?
The Oxford English Dictionary describes the shadow as “a patch of shade, a dark figure projected by a body intercepting rays of light, this regarded as an appendage of a person or a thing.” At the same time it is a “hole in light” and has as such a dimension in space. Light is the root of shadow. As soon as this light is extinguished, the shadow disappears. It is therefore a dependent phenomenon.
From another point of view we can see darkness as the basic substance of the shadow. This is described in Genesis verse 1.2 with the words, “and the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” So blackness reigns in the depths of the universe and light can only illuminate this to a certain extent.. Only there, where it encounters solid material, is it reflected and made visible. If we look at it in this way then shadows are merely fragments of this darkness which replace it where light does not penetrate. Just what a shadow is, is therefore dependent upon whether we regard darkness or light as the beginning.
It is a fact that there can be no shadow without objects which engender it. In contrast to most other things shadows are made of nothing. They are intangible, immaterial things and as such vexing to our intellect. This irritation can be found in our language where the expression “shadow” is only employed imprecisely. Because the “patch” described in the dictionary is scarcely visible in most cases because of scattered reflection, we simply call the area where it appears “shadow.” On the other hand, however, we say “we go into the shade” when we enter a room. It would be more logical to differentiate between the types of darkness which evolve on a limitative surface as “shadow”, “silhouette” or “shading.”
We orientate ourselves by means of shadows and their nuances of black and white. As vestiges of the contact between light and objects they give us information about the characteristics of objects by betraying spatial dimensions and structures through their very existence. The superficiality of any material comes into being first of all by means of the smallest shadow. This is as valid for objects in our immediate environment - which are dependent on our immediate recognition of them as shadows – as for planets and stars. There are shadows in every dimension.
Shadow phenomena of cosmic dimensions we associate more with darkness than with shadow as they tend to overtax our sense of perception. We are scarcely cognizant of the fact that night is the shadow of the Earth and the phases of the moon no more than a shadow play. The shadows all around us need to have a comprehensible outline – or else they do not exist for us.
It takes a tremendous amount of concentration before you can discern shadows consciously. Without reflectin for a moment you can have no notion of the shadows around you. They are much more than a purely physical occurrence. They are mysterious and sometimes transform the object which has given them life into something demonical. They are a hiding-place because sight cannot penetrate the darkness. They carry with them a memory of what has brought them into being but still they are a story for themselves. They tell of the present as the past cannot delineate their elusiveness. They come and go and leave no tracks. They can change from second to second and are in some strange way subservient to the object of which they are an image. Willing slaves, they come and go, sticking closely to a body but not allowing themselves to be grasped. They are the absence of light, the extant nothingness, and therefore a paradox.
Shadows are witnesses of the encounter between the material world and a world in which material things play only a minor role. They are the sole visible but yet immaterial substances, a passageway, a door between two worlds.