painted wall with shadow

Surfaces of Light

I know this room so well, and yet every day it looks different.

Light can transform an ordinary room into something visually spectacular.

A sudden appearance of beam of light, when it hits a surface or a wall introduces elements you don’t normally see.

In that moment, that wall has a very different presence in the space; it has a life of its own.

Light adds shade and depth to enrich our world.

In every space, when the sun’s rays make a seasonal appearance, it gives high drama and detail.

From outside from inside, a beam of light will enter an opening to create magical moving patterns and shapes,

And then suddenly we can see the subtle texture of the paintbrush, the strokes of the hand that treated that surface and the grain of natural finish.

Light moves silently across a room seeking out the walls, the furniture and floor.

It highlights the quality of the material, its’ texture, quality and impact on space.

There is the silkiness of a sheen, depth of grain and grit. When we see it, we can appreciate the subtlety of warmth and cold, shine, gloss and patina.

We are familiar with the fresh, crisp, clean surfaces, the mastery of craft in form and space (John Pawson ). Also, the bumpy, aged, rough surfaces that are a feature of older buildings ( David Chipperfield.)

These architects know how to use surfaces as a breathing space, a place for the play of light.

Reach out and touch it.

Children make sense of their world through materiality.

They explore its qualities, resistance, grain and sound by scratching it, tasting it, rubbing, stroking and playing with it.

As adults we rely on sight rather than touch but we can still draw on our memory of childhood experiences. We carry with us our own an interpretation, curiosity and knowledge of materiality.

The eye is the organ of distance and separation, whereas touch is the sense of nearness, intimacy and affection. The eye surveys, controls and investigates, whereas touch approaches and caresses.

Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of The Skin

In the adult world propriety rules how we behave in a space. We don’t want to mark the walls. Or scratch the floor, or leave a greasy stain.

Somehow, interiors have become less about what they ‘feel like’ and more about what they ‘look like’.

It is only when we are painting, cleaning, making or re-making surfaces that we re-connect intimately with the materiality of that space.

And where there is a window, light is always a part of that space.

In 2016 for the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, the artist, Robert Irwin created Dawn To Dusk.

This is ‘interiors’ as sculpture, as art.

As viewers move through the space they connect to the changing light of the desert.

From blinding sun through to the rich, warm evening hues, this environment is about the simplicity of interior space – and light, expressed in the simple sculptural qualities of architectural interiors.

In this setting, we have to stop, look and notice.

In large gallery spaces artists, such as Olafur Eliasson, play with sculptural forms and the light. Conrad Shawcross’s Slow Arc Inside A Cube explores light and pattern within the confines of a room.

James Turrell is an artist who creates light installations. His art features the purity of shapes on surfaces, best viewed within an internal space.

These awe-inspiring experiences can only be truly experienced first-hand. To fully capture the impact and immensity of scale you have to be there.

There is the delight of a moment when light hits the shiny surface of a watch, or a glass, and bounces around the room.

A playful distraction… a creative pause.. or a moment of joy?

These images were taken in my home and so they mean something special to me.

It was a moment that made me stop and look.

My home was not built with expensive or luxury materials and yet, the walls and surfaces exist as a neutral backdrop that comes alive in sunlight.

It makes me appreciate how lucky I to have a spectacular and ever-changing, seasonal light show in my home.

Everyday I get to look at my home in a new way.

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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