A Calculation of Light

It is a symphony of sickly colors.  A random collection of rich, carved things painted with an understanding that is dour and cold.  It has the strange, reflective glow of a world beneath the sea – colored with pastes of seaweed, shells and yellow, altered light.  It could be the remains of an underwater meal, where Neptune had just risen from the table, blue and sated.

It is this altered light, as controlled and understood as a domestic animal, which has made this painting famous.  Light's subtle movements are calculated, traced and pinned to the canvas like butterflies stolen from the air.  It travels in thin, hot rivers along the edges of a glass, pooling in the concave base of a chalice, and is still and green like a mossy lake at the bottom of a wine goblet.  Reflections of window panes, portals of illumination, float through these murky waters.

One expects such clear and inquisitive lighting to emanate from the sun – the most perverse star of all:  bright during the day, covered and silent like a child at night.  Instead, it reclines in a globule of tinted oil, poised at the end of a paintbrush – a daytime star ready to fall.

Hidden in this landscape of food, glass and silver are signs of momento mori: reminders of the vanities of life in the midst of this tranquil luxury.  These are subtle warnings:  the broken timepiece - its winding key dangling helplessly in a black, empty space.  A glass has fallen on its side, the broken pieces scattered on the plate where the slice of pie waits to be finished, rendering dangerous a symbol of the lush, satisfied life.

Across this scenery – a map of extravagance and admonition, mountainous with fine linen, mysterious, dark and flourishing - light falls with its myriad definitions.  Walls and glasses drip with the ocean's wavering reflections.  Silver melts into a luminous shadow.  Fabric breathes like a sleeping animal.  Darkness becomes a recluse and retreats into its resentment, as light spreads across the inanimate country, particles of the atmosphere touching angles, curves and corners – a life-giving invasion.

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7 responses to “A Calculation of Light

  1. remarkably vivid, your prose brings almost gluttonous life to this still life.

  2. Your prose is a peaceful, warm ocean. I didn't read this, I swam through it. This one is my new favorite.Brilliant.

  3. Wbaby – this piece is called Still Life (or Breakfast Piece) with Blackberry Tart. Now, I'm not a fan of fruit desserts, but Heda does manage to make this look succulent, the shards of glass notwithstanding.
    His subject matter was always a little more restrained than that used by other s/l painters of the time. He did so much more, using considerably less. This is one reason why Heda is my favorite s/l painter.
    pyrit – are you sure you didn't slog? Stagger? Struggle? Well, thanks so much, darling. You know, I'm reminded of the first art assignment I had in college. We were to gather around the campus water fountain and draw the water. Writing about light was just as frustrating – so close, but so far away. Elusive little subtlety.

  4. It is an excellent study of and exercise in light, shadow and texture.

  5. Can I just say "Wow"?

  6. Nice – this is a diversion, I must say, from your usual style. Cool – I was harkened back to reading a book where a woman decides to live by herself on an island in Maine. Many of her meals involve seaweed and other salty dinners. Now I must remember which book that was. Not nearly as vivid as your writings but certainly relevant.

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