Seeing the Light

Edward Hopper, 'Sun in an Empty Room' (1963)
'Maybe I am not very human - what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.'

Edward Hopper
The last time I moved house I made a simple promise to myself. From that point onward, whenever looking for a property, wherever it may be, certain essential criteria would have to be met.

Firstly, it was important - no, vital, it was vital - that the new space have an abundance of fresh, circulating air: air that was clean and fresh at all times. As I am an asthmatic, and my symptoms have flared up just lately, I can’t emphasize this first point enough. I didn’t want any more of that damp furniture smell sparring with my lungs, and I was through with sampling previous tenants’ intestinal offshots.

I also wanted a plentiful supply of natural light. And I can’t stress this one enough, either. After spending a year living in a room with a poor light supply, I became amazed at the effect it had on my personality, and my general outlook on life. Everything began to feel numb and dumb and interminable. I started to become depressed and irritable, and found it strange that my room, the one place that has always brought me comfort and solace, became a site for sparks of anxiety and sometimes even misery. So now I reach for natural light every chance I get, and no bulb can serve as a substitute. I find myself yearning for it like a sapling struggling towards the sun.

Natural light has since become not only a requirement to my sanity and well-being, but something of a fixation. I can understand the fascination the impressionists felt in their approach to light and its representation. I can understand Edward Hopper’s strange outburst about wanting to paint light on the side of a house. And I can see natural light everywhere I go, glinting through trees, bouncing off table-tops and gleaming on wet stones. It adds colour, depth, mood and atmosphere to every environment; I’d even go as far as to say that light is that environment. It’s everywhere, and it’s beautiful.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’ve lost the plot, and perhaps you’re right, but I’m not budging on this strange new standpoint. The next time I move house, as I prepare my list of necessaries and prerequisites, right at the top, above the gas/electric cooker, above the strength of the shower, even above the air supply, will be ‘natural light’. Underlined. In bold capital letters.