DARK VERSUS LIGHT
Updated: Apr 3
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Now, to today's topic:
In SAMSON AGONISTES, the 17th Century poet John Milton presents us with the desperate, blind Samson railing against his condition with the seismically powerful utterance:
“Oh dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse
Without all hope of day”
I remember so well my tutor on Milton, Dr Ronald Knowles, when I read English at Reading University, intoning this immortal verse. The words have stuck with me ever since.
I have lived through some dark times, times during which the light seemed scarcely visible. To this day, vacillations in mood and outlook render life and creativity challenging at times. Leonard Cohen though, so wisely reminds us that “there is a crack in everything – that's how the light gets in”.
Milton's Samson goes on to proclaim:
“The Sun to me is dark
And silent as the Moon”
SILENT AS THE MOON - Haydn Dickenson (2019)
As much as the sun can be as dark as the moon, so darkness can appear blinding in its intensity. The blackness prevents us from seeing the light that is nonetheless present.
Darkness and Light, in painting as in other art forms and in Life, are necessarily opposing forces. In my earlier article WHY WE NEED ABSTRACT ART TODAY, I quoted Stephen Hawking's assertions regarding the positive and the negative in astrophysics, and I am in no doubt that the same truth applies to Art. In music too, constant consonance leaves only a void; dissonance is essential to provide balance and tension.
I do not uphold the popular view that Mark Rothko's paintings, despite the tragic nature of his death, are unremittingly dark. Light itself may be subdued, and the manner in which Rothko's majesty stands before us in the darkened rooms in which his paintings are usually exhibited, is testament to their luminous power.
LIGHT RED OVER BLACK - Mark Rothko (1957)
I have recently encountered a person whose influence on my Art will, I suspect, be a powerful one. Indeed, that person's energy has already manifested in what I believe is a rather special painting.
OUT ON THEE, SEEMING - Haydn Dickenson (2023)
My agent has already remarked on “a lightness in (my) recent work. Not that it has lost any depth. The depth has more of a simplicity to it and in that, it has a very powerful expression of peace.”
The dark will endure though. In the dark, we dream, and dreams are both essential and addictive.
Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023