'I have always thought there was such beauty about a room like that [empty], even though there weren't any people in it, perhaps precisely when there weren't any.' Vilhelm Hammershoi 1907

I find myself drawn to unpeopled rooms as a subject for art and photography. Then the focus shifts to the slant of light on an object - highlighting a detail, re-shaping the contours of the space, emphasising the silence.  

A few years ago I went to a stunning Hammershoi exhibition. Many of his paintings are of interiors, executed in muted variations of black, grey, beige, white. Sometimes a woman is glimpsed, her back to us, holding a plate perhaps or disappearing through a doorway. Rooms only recently deserted have a different energy to those that have been empty a long time, as if you can still feel the human molecules. Somehow, Hammershoi conveys in his paintings that sense of rooms where absence is recent. But even the paintings containing a figure imply that their presence is transitory; undisturbing. I circled the room over and over, taking in the cool delicacy of the palette and the absorbing quality of the empty canvasses.

Eventually I stepped out into the noise, colour and movement of Piccadilly and felt like Alice slipping down the rabbit hole with a feeling that the world was topsy turvy and I'd left reality behind, in that gallery.


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Reader Comments (3)

October 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteralexandria
I relate to this more than you know. So beautifully articulated, Kate.
October 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDenise | Chez Danisse
Alexandria, thank you :)

Denise, one of my favourite things about your own photographs is your acute and subtle response to the fall of light. I can also think of several examples of empty rooms that I really love. Thank you for your kind words.
October 14, 2013 | Registered Commenterlittle house

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