Click on photos to enlarge.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shadow Art

At first glance, it might look easy, but as with all art, there is a degree of skill involved.                   
During the late 19th-century,
charts such as this were quite
popular, especially after the
invention of electric lights.
There are few forms of art that are so universal that virtually everyone has, at one time or another, tried their "hand" at. The pun was intended. It's so universal most people seldom think of it as art at all; it's merely great fun and our inept attempts at it quite funny. Art supplies? Two hands and a somewhat focused light source. A flashlight will do. A few days ago I wrote about a contraption for drawing silhouettes that our colonial ancestor-artists invented using a simple candle (probably with a concave reflector in back). It's doubtful they could have resisted making a few animated silhouette hand puppets with it. Such efforts may, in fact, be one of our most ancient art forms. I mean, a bonfire in a cave would supply sufficient light to cast shadows upon a vertical stone surface. It would be just one short step from that to enacting great "motion picture" exploits for their awestruck, cavern-dwelling friends. There's even a word for such shadowy dramas--shadowgraphy. It was quite popular even as late as 1900, until the advent of the celluloid versions. When you think about it, projected photography is, in fact, shadows cast upon a wall.
Often the surface receiving the shadow is used to  create the desired image.
The artist/choreographer is
French, no doubt.
In our modern era, hand puppetry has evolved from a schtick by stand-up comics and kiddie show TV into a mature, and really quite complex new type of art. Such art has moved well beyond hand-cramping finger calesthenics to full-body silhouettes involve two or more people (right); and its no longer limited to cute little puppies and flying birds. In fact, many of the best modern-day examples of such art don't even involve people at all (except for their artist-creators). Instead, they utilize inanimate objects, carefully chosen and skillfully created so as to cast totally unexpected shadows (above). In effect, they are sculptures where the shadow cast by the art object is far more important than the object or objects themselves. British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster (below) have moved away from sculptural elements altogether into simply arranging trash (bound with glue and wire) to cast their shadow art.

British artists, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, are into the skillful recycling of trash into art.
Shadow art self-portraits,
Noble and Webster.
While we've all probably tried casting our own profile silhouettes upon ;a wall, Noble and Webster have even utilized their "trash art" to create self-portrait silhouettes (left) with startling results. Just try to ignore the spikes. Of course, the key element in preserving shadow art, in a sense, that which, in fact, makes it an art form, is photography. Without the camera and a skilled artist behind it, shadow art would be, at best, simply a type of performance art. Sometimes the photographer gets involved in the shadow art as well, creating images that the shadow artists could never manage simply using cast shadows (below). Other artists have moved into the use of bottles and other types of colored glass to create projected images in color, like those of Azerbaijani artist Rashad Alakbarov (below, right).

Photography and shadow art go hand in hand.
Regarded from Two Sides, 1984,
Diet Wiegman
Shadow art is not necessarily
colorless, Rashad Alakbarov
German artist, Diet Wiegman, has created sculptures demonstrating the ever-present fact that shadow art also demands the careful placement of a single light source to create the artist's art-shadow. His Regarded from Two Sides (above, left), dating from 1984, is unique in shadow art in that it makes its point using two light sources, one, placed off to the side revealing the sculpture's apparent shape and a second to cast the shadow creating his "David." Modern day shadow art sculptors have long been aware of the critical importance of light source placement, often making it the key element in their shadow sculpture effects as seen in the wall sculpture below which utilizes a light source placed at an oblique angle to the objects casting the shadow.

Here, the objects are not so important as their placement and that of the light source.

This clever feline artist
casts a fearsome shadow.


No comments:

Post a Comment