Chiaroscuro is both an artistic technique and a storytelling device; it stages drama, creates depth, and shapes spaces—applying meaning to objects and environments. Combining the limitless control of lighting and the cinematic language established by CGI technology, IGNANT has created a selection of visuals for Taupe—an independent research platform devoted to digital color. Together, we investigated how space can inform representations of chiaroscuro, and evoke light through a deliberate compositional control of contrasts and effects.
Owing its longevity to Renaissance artists such as Caravaggio, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Rembrandt, chiaroscuro—the Italian term for the use of contrasts in light and shading across a pictorial work of art—is a stylistic device used to represent shape, form, and color, and to reveal subtle details while adding a three-dimensional quality to two-dimensional images. Today, chiaroscuro has found implementation across all media types—evolving alongside advancements in art and technology. With the creation of CGI, an unprecedented artistic control over light and shadow has become possible, with opportunities for light simulations that would otherwise be challenging to convey visually. IGNANT built on digital implementations of chiaroscuro to demonstrate how drama can be evoked by transforming the techniques of chiaroscuro into methods of digital storytelling.
Each of the pairings arrests us with a sculptural still life paired with a visualization of its light source as an abstracted architectural space.We played with inversions in the rendered images: in classical chiaroscuro, the subject enveloped in darkness is made to glow; creating a sense of space and depth through the contrast of light and shadows. IGNANT inverted this concept—the surrounding architecture informs the chiaroscuro in the representation of the subject; a compilation of objects in this case. The space acts as a physical force within the scene, rather than a secondary element—made of light and color, it interacts with the objects and declares a rather somber mood, staging the drama of the scene and setting the tone for the viewing experience.
The rendered architectural arrangement in each pairing replicates chiaroscuro, highlighting the most climatic areas of the scene while emphasizing contrast and tonality throughout.The deliberate compositional control and direction of light and focus contribute to how the image on the left is received. Here, the specific quality of directional lighting is created by the accommodation of the single light source, which lifts out details and features of the objects, while hiding others. Lighting qualities such as color temperature, brightness, softness, and angle, grant intensity onto the highlights and shadows of the sculptural objects. Through the use of chiaroscuro, surface details become visual descriptors; the objects are intentionally pushing extremes, capturing an accurate representation of the light that fills the room. From enhancing effects to directing attention or amplifying impact, the different approaches to lighting—varying from shot to shot—reveal the potential of storytelling imposed with digital implementation to be limitless.