Warra |Wangarratta | Victoria |Australia
Daylights |Scott Bennett |2018|Oil on linen | 30″x40″ | Private collection

Click here to view a zoomable image of the painting.

Daylights: Alberti’s window in Brunelleschi’s mirror

“As the moon does, by wanting light to give:
But then renew I could not, like the moon;
There were no suns to borrow of.
– William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens”

I have admired the ‘image-objects’ of Minimalism and the ‘finish-fetish’ of the Light and Space movement (LSM). Both have had a long-lasting influence, still present today in the work of many contemporary artists.

Visual art’s old paragone* has never been settled, despite various movements spawned to shift the battle grounds. The literal space of Abstract Expressionism, a reaction to illusory space, became the “real space” of Minimalism. But the old debate had returned again and with LSM, no-one seemed to notice that it had simply shifted back and forth between space and light. Both however, require an observer, a theatricality that was fully embraced, despite the very long history of the argument.

Since the Renaissance, the discourse had now come full circle. The reflected light of God – as Deus Artifex – that Filippo Brunelleschi had seen in the virtual space of his mirror was that very light, the same one framed in Leon Battista Alberti’s gridded window; that had helped to secularise the science of optics.

*Paragone is a debate from the Italian Renaissance in which one form of art (architecture, sculpture or painting) is championed as superior to all others. Leonardo da Vinci’s treatise on painting, noting the difficulty of painting and supremacy of sight, is a noted example.

Daylights detail

Daylights detail close-up

“Seeing is a very sensuous act, there’s a sweet deliciousness to feeling yourself see something.”
James Turrell

“But sculpture receives lightness and darkness from Nature herself whereas painting receives it from Art”
Galileo Galilei

“An excellent picture is more admirable than an excellent sculpture. For, the farther removed the means by which one imitates are from the thing to be imitated, the more worthy of wonder the imitation will be.”
Leonardo da Vinci, Paragone

“The difference between the new work and earlier painting and present sculpture is like that between one of Brunelleschi’s windows in the Badia di Fiesole and the façade of [Alberti’s] Palazzo Rucellai, which is only an
undeveloped rectangle as a whole and is mainly a collection of highly ordered parts.” – Donald Judd, Specific Objects

Brunelleschi's mirror

Brunelleschi’s mirror


Alberti’s window

Alberti’s window


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