Sunday, 30 January 2011
What does the shadow reveal?
Examine both the sculpture and its shadow on the wall. What do you see?
As the sculpture spins, the shadow appears to form the faces of a man and a child, and two birds.
A shadow is created when an object blocks the passage of light. The parts of the sculpture that are blocking the light create the area of the shadow, a two-dimensional surface. While the shape and size of the shadow are determined by the object itself, they are also affected by the distance of the light source from the object, and the angle at which the light hits the object.
The shadow and light areas created by the sculpture together produce the recognisable figures we see. As we are looking at the shadow, we try to formulate significant and meaningful interpretations of what we see. Once we have located a sufficient number of identifiable and familiar elements in the shadow, our brain fills in the missing pieces around them. Human faces are one of the most familiar and important shapes for us, so we are particularly skilled at recognising them.
One Finnish New Year’s Eve tradition is to melt tin and use the casting to make predictions for the new year. When making these playful predictions, some choose to use the shadow the cast tin creates, while others make interpretations of the casting itself. The tradition of making predictions based on metal castings is common to many countries and has been practiced since the classical period.