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written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

Who doesn’t love the marvelous things water and light can do together? Certainly Adolfo Fernández Rodriguez does, as evidenced in his beautiful “Waiting in Princess Street”. This is a gorgeous tour de force. Here, light and water dance in a blaze of colour, a night street alive in the rain.

Waiting in Princess Street

Waiting in Princess Street

The colours are so rich and intense that it comes as a bit of a surprise to realize that this is actually a work with a very limited palette. “Limited” seems a silly word to describe a picture like this, but we see that the artist has used the following warm colours almost exclusively: reddish darks, bright oranges, glowing yellows. In the midst of this, the splashes of cool green make a startling contrast. They flicker here and there throughout the scene like fish darting through a fiery pond. Yet although they are so vivid they never detract from the other colours. Rather they heighten them, enhancing the work as a whole.

In contrast to the restricted colour range, the values go all the way from deep shadow to brilliant light. I’ve always loved the visual paradox of a night scene full of light. Things are inverted: instead of light above and dark beneath we have the opposite, a dark quiet sky above a busy, dazzling ground. It’s beautiful, but the brightest lights also play a necessary role in the design. They lead our eyes around the work. The focal point is, I think, the cluster of lights and reflections on the left. Here the colours come luminously together: pale cream, paler green, yellow gold. But very soon we jump from there to the next patch of light, and then to the next, always returning to the centre of interest.

Another thing that makes this work so memorable is its ability to show us two different spatial planes simultaneously. That is, we experience very near and very far at the same time. This is because we are looking at this street through rain-spattered glass. We’re all familiar with the way water distorts things. Fernández Rodríguez has made the most of this, with the waterdrops almost like brushstrokes, spreading the light and colour around the surface.

The result is that in spite of its realism (we always know that we are looking at a rainy street at night), the whole thing resembles an exuberant abstract or Impressionist painting. We are aware of the depth of the image – we can follow the perspective of the street – but we are also very much aware of the picture plane itself. Dots and dabs of light dance before us, reflections wave and shimmer, everything seems on the verge of dissolving into a bright swirl of colour and light. How wonderful to be an artist who can both see these things and share them with others!