Time, Light and The Artist


I am not convinced that time is linear, though the first silver hairs on my head would aggressively disagree. It is of course clear time does move on. Parents tell you this with wild eyes. Photographers tell you about exposure and development times or chasing the best light to capture that moment of life through their lens. Time is our collaborator and our adversary as artists. Authors bend the passage of time in story arcs, suspense, and romantic timing. Comedians craft the pace of words and motion into jokes. Cinematographers and film directors focus our perceptions with the length of each shot, our mind lingering where the camera points. Painters decide where shadows fall. All art has its own relationship with the ticking clock and the Earth’s rotation around the sun.

I have experienced time fold back on itself in wrinkles of deja vu or momentary displacement when heightened awareness almost touches eras and people from other ages or chapters of our lives. Time repeats itself in phrases, seasons, reflections, faces, and the most bizarre fashions.  I have often wondered how to translate such experiences into art. How do we transcribe time’s rolling helix? Is it in the relentless return of rhythm in Ravel’s Bolero, or in the quiet power of a Haiku? From time-traveling fantasy epics to contemporary participatory art we all seem to be battling and molding time.

Time for me speeds up and slows down, often in correlation to the measures of heart and mind. When we fall into love, friendship or another voyage of discovery, time can seem to warp and stretch. In two days you can feel like you’ve known someone lifetimes, eons can flash by in an afternoon. Likewise, I have known years that blur into one while struggling literally to survive. Perhaps it is the changing pulse of the clepsydra that pumps life-source around our bodies or merely the processing centre of our minds, but I believe time bends.  In the theory of relativity, we are told light follows the curvature of spacetime. We bend light. We do so by our presence in space as light passes around us, and we do so as creatives of every kind forming objects and ideas.  We each help bend light towards an observer’s eye, often meeting across time as we do so.

While celebrating a belated 40th birthday, my favourite human and I were trundling around woodland full of luminous silver birch and ancient hollowed-out living oak. The air was sharp and the light was bright. In that space, all the playfulness of childhood vied with the knowing and questioning of four testing decades. I wondered vaguely if it was time to grow up, and then I remembered I am not convinced that time is linear.