ON THE USE OF GOLD, SARAH VAN SONSBEECK, 2016    
  
 
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    No one will believe me when I say my inspiration to work with gold as an artist came from silence. However, it is true. After having researched silence for six years, due to having horrible neighbours when I got admitted for a residency at the Rijksakademie Amsterdam, I felt the need to research what then was this silence I felt I was lacking. One of my paths of research took me to the common saying ‘ speech is silver, silence is golden’ . The more I thought it through the stranger it seemed to me. Why would silence be ‘good’? Naturally it can be, but censorship for instance can be a bad kind of silence. It seemed to me silence had no properties, but would be defined entirely by who was experiencing it. And so over time gold seemed to me to share this strange quality with silence. It too, is defined by its surroundings. A ray of light will bring it to light and be reflected a thousand times, as will a shadow. As Junichiro Tanizaki so beautifully says in his ‘In Praise of Shadows’ (1977):   'Artisans of old, when they finished their works in lacquer and decorated them in sparkling patterns, must surely have had in mind dark rooms and sought to turn to good effect what feeble light there was. Their extravagant use of gold, too, I should imagine, came of understanding how it gleams forth from out of the darkness and reflects the lamplight.    And surely you have seen, in the darkness of the innermost rooms of these huge buildings, to which sunlight never penetrates, how the gold leaf of a sliding door or screen will pick up a distant glimmer from the garden, then suddenly send forth an ethereal glow, a faint golden light cast into the enveloping darkness, like the glow upon the horizon at sunset. In no other setting is gold quit so exquisitely beautiful. You walk past, turning to look again, and yet again; and as you move away the golden surface of the paper glows ever more deeply, changing not in a flash, but growing slowly, steadily brighter, like color rising in the face of a giant. Or again you may find that the gold dust of the background, which until that moment had only a dull, sleepy luster, will, as you move past, suddenly gleam forth as if it had burst into flame.    How, in such a dark place, gold draws so much light to itself is a mystery to me. But I see why in ancient times statues of the Buddha were gilt with gold and why gold leaf covered the walls of the homes of the nobility. Modern man, in his well-lit house, knows nothing of the beauty of gold; but those who lived in the dark houses of the past were not merely captivated by its beauty, they also knew its practical value; for gold, in these dim rooms, must have served the function of a reflector. Their use of gold leaf and gold dust was not mere extravagance. Its reflective properties were put to use as a source of illumination. ’     Italic excerpts taken from 'In praise of shadows (1977) by   Junichiro Tanizaki    .  Photo  One bar of gold, breathed #1  -  ©  Gert Jan van Rooij    
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