In Praise of Shadows

The renowned 1933 essay ‘In Praise of Shadows’ by the Japanese author and novelist Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, has been described as ‘an exercise in mindfulness’. Discussing the virtues of shadow and subtlety which imbue traditional Japanese aesthetics, Tanizaki argues that the West, through its appetite for progress is continuously searching for light and clarity which can be harsh and unforgiving, whilst the subdued forms of oriental art represent an underappreciated tranquillity. Furthermore, Tanizaki contemplates the layered tones of various kinds of shadows and their ability to reflect materials with patina and sheen such as gold embroidery and cloudy crystals. The delicacy, softness and nuances created by such contrast are praised as ‘understated’ and ‘natural’ and central to an appreciation of mindfulness.

As the darker Autumn nights creep in, there is a pull towards embracing dark walls, moody blues and graphite blacks to create drama and ambience within both residential and commercial spaces. It’s a design trend which has been playing out for some time and is still going strong – perhaps for the very reasons that Tanizaki outlined – the appreciation of contrast and the spectrum of tranquillity that light and shade can bring to the largest and smallest of spaces.

At Kassavello, we are constantly exploring how our curated collection of furniture and lighting can be utilised to different effect in a multitude of schemes. The subtle and often imperfect marriage of light and darkness is never far from our minds when considering what emotional effect each piece can have in a different environment.

Bessa’s Moonlight wall lamp epitomizes how decorative lighting can drive dramatic impact through shape, form and shadows. Inspired by the moon and the ethereal beauty of moonlight, this stunning hand-polished brass piece is embellished with detailing that recreates the unique features of the moon’s craters. A central section of Portoro marble gives weight and depth whilst creating a pocket for luminescent rays which contrast with the deep dark tones of the stone. When mounted against a dark surface, the lamp exudes atmosphere and radiates emotion that interplays between shadow and light.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

If metallic surfaces are reflected and enhanced by the contrast of darkness and shadows, then there is no finer example of this than the Pixel nightstand. A harmonious fusion of geometry, the Pixel uses complex joinery, silvering, varnishing and gold leaf application to create a harmonious and striking design that exudes beauty. Triangular surfaces bounce light around the exterior frame in a unique and exquisite dance of reflection. Place the Pixel against dark tones and contrasting materials and the impact is multiplied tenfold. A striking addition to any master suite.

Whilst geometric design creates a balanced dance of light against shaded spaces, more organic forms allude to Tanizaki’s associated passion for ‘Wabi Sabi’ the joy of imperfection or irregularity. The Symphony sideboard is comprised of a cluster of polished brass tubes which envelop an exotic wood structure. Emotionally evocative, the tubes have been placed at irregular heights, reminiscent of a musical tune thereby creating interest and dynamism through the light and shade that is cast from the body of the piece. Equally at home in a luxurious residential space or a boutique hotel, the Symphony is certain to drive impact in any scheme.

“The sun never knew how wonderful it was until it fell on the wall of a building”, the architect Louis Khan as quoted by Tanizaki. No more so is this true than with the Babel wall light. An original and exquisite fixture with an unmistakable presence, the Babel is formed of organic crystal glass shards, hung from smooth circular brass rings. Beautiful in any setting but enhanced endlessly when placed against a dark surface where the delicate lines of the crystal ebb and flow and slivers of soft light eek out spaces between the brass structure.

“When we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquillity holds sway.” Creating a swathe of shadows and darkness underneath and behind it’s striking façade is the indomitable Bonsai table. Emulating a crystalized tree silhouette, the Bonsai is at once striking and dramatic in form. Created from particle wood board the palisander veneer is finished with a high gloss varnish. Contrast the table against a light or dark surface and shadows dance and play from every angle. A statement piece that would create the perfect mix of light and shade in any environment.

To see our full collection of unique pieces or to view some of our bespoke commissions which have been inspired by Tanizaki’s principles, take a look through our website. And if you’d like to share your own favourites, please do let us know on Twitter @kassavello – we’d love to hear from you.

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Ana & Renata
info@kassavello.com

We are wives, mums, best friends of 25 years and we share a passion for interiors and furniture design. Despite living in two different countries, we decided to embark on the adventure of creating a business together and we are loving it!

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