Islands of light

Street haunting in winter, writes Virginia Woolf, is the greatest of adventures. In the early evening she rambles, her eyes “gliding smoothly on the surface” of things and noticing, for example, that “here under the lamps are floating islands of pale light”.*

One of the loveliest qualities of the pavement is the way it reflects the glow from lights in the street at gloomy times of the day, especially when it is wet. Clarice Beckett captures these reflections in her subtle paintings of Melbourne scenes, like Wet evening c.1927 and Taxi rank c.1931.

A single tail light or traffic light can form a wavering pillar submerged in the depths beneath the surface of the street.

Rainy morning, West Pender Street, Vancouver, November 2009

 

*Street haunting: a London adventure, first published in 1942 and reproduced in The art of the personal essay, Anchor Books, 1995.

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