Painting emptiness

Look around, what do you see? We could say we see all sorts of things but the question is not what things do you see, rather what do you see. What we see is what enters our eyes and what enters our eyes is light. Photons of light bouncing off things, which is why we say we see things.  In physics photons can be thought of as both particles and waves. Photons make the world appear light, less photons and  the world appears darker. 

In short, when we look around what we see is light. Through habit and survival we have evolved to edit the light and focus on those things that help us survive and reproduce but there is more to light than that if we are prepared to take the time to see. Light illuminates everything and everything includes that which is other than the things we see. For us humans the key word is ‘things’ not ‘see’. Once we accept that our vision is dominated by things, because they are useful, we can begin to recognise that there is much more to seeing than things. We can start to see the spaces between the things. But is the space between things really worth the effort? Try taking away the space between things. Try taking away the space between notes of a symphony, or the silence between words, or the absence of feelings between touches, or the absence of tastes between taste or the absence of scents between smells, none of this is possible to imagine. The space between things defines the things, things exist because they are not the space between them and other things. 

Light then, the light which fills our vision, is everything and most of everything is empty of things. We see emptiness. 

But only if we think and think hard can we begin to have an idea about what this means. To see emptiness and only emptiness because even the things which we see are not things which we see but photons that have bounced off things. We don’t see things, we see light and light is not a thing. Photons have no mass. Think for a moment what that means; to have no mass. 

Painters show us what they see so a great painter should show us light and a great painter who tried to do just that was JMW Turner. Towards the end of his life Turner turned away from the grand paintings that had made him the most famous painter in England and perhaps the world and put his skill to painting the emptiness of light. Light has no mass. How do you paint something that has no thinginess? If you paint recognisable things then you make your job much harder. Turner dispensed with things and focused on no things. 

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