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Dark Matters

06/04/2007

I managed to scoot up to the Ingleby Gallery on Thursday to catch Alison Watt‘s installation “Dark Light” on its last day. Her shift from white canvases to black is logical: a further step in the stripping down that is represented by her progression from full-blown portraits to paintings of fabric to paintings of purely white fabric. White is a combination of all the colours of the spectrum, so a move to black marks a removal of that underlying richness.

Thursday was, of course, Maundy Thursday, one of the days on which it is traditional in some Christian demoninations to hold a tenebrae service, in which the light in the church is gradually extinguished–another stripping back to black. The churches in Linlithgow held a joint tenebrae service on Good Friday, but experiencing Watt’s piece was a tenebrae for one: standing in the cube waiting for the paintings to emerge from the dimness was highly contemplative, not unlike waiting for God to emerge from the gloom of prayer. It put me in mind of the closing stanza of Henry Vaughan’s poem “The Night“:

There is in God (some say)
A deep, but dazzling darkness; As men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear;
O for that night! where I in him
Might live invisible and dim.

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