The image keeps flashing in my mind: the water lapping on the steps, the top one bright white and bone dry, bleached by the sun, the next bathed and sparkling as each tiny wave rolls in. The third with a thick layer of algae, swaying back and forth, the results of the beautiful repetition of the tides, the patterns that have ruled this city for centuries, this world forever.
Venice is not known, of course, as a city of light, but rather as one of water — the city on the water, quite literally. However to me, the few times I’ve been there, the most striking thing has been the light: starkly bright in the middle of a hot summer day, making the white stone glow and the dark water green and mysterious. Fading at twilight to a calm, blanketing blue, when the sky and lagoon meld into the same vibrant shade, only barely distinguishable at the horizon. And diluted, indirect, in the thick fogs which can roll in and out of the city, making it’s labyrinthine walkways even more intriguing.
Outside of context, perhaps this won’t make sense, but I want to post it anyway. It’s from a brochure I picked up for the last Biennale in Venezia, with an architect describing his work renovating an old palazzo for contemporary use. I thought it interesting, a “found poem” of sorts, illustrating both these superficial impressions of the city and the process of an artist more deeply imbedded, working with the city and its many facets:
“For the ancient Hall of Mirrors (Sala degli Specchi), I conceived a design of signs and fragments of images and surfaces, of mirrors and reflections, of elements that emerge from the wall to bring it alive like black traces on white paper… it is the beginning of a new story.
The traces of light that move like water and earth, like the marshy lands of the lagoon where solid and fluid alternate with the motion of the tides. Inside and outside communicate in a single stream of reflections and refractions, of real images and images of light. The real and the imaginary, surprise, reflection and discovery come alive in images of natural and artificial light.”