‘Moonlight’

Make hay while the sun shines, they say, and in the evening sleep. Or make the most of food and wine, they continue, and into the nighttime weep. In this painting by Lhasa-based artist Zhungde, the sun is long absent from the sky – and with it, perhaps, the possibility of productive action. But heat can also be languid, and cool invigorating. A sunny afternoon's drowsy daydream of reconciliation can often be undermined after sundown: having slept too long during the day, the darkness brings with it fantastic visions of light and dark and fear and impetus.

What the sun hides, after all, is itself, allowing for little more than painful glances. In the dark and the stillness of the night, the moon appears every bit as brilliant as the sun – a reflection of the day's energy, perhaps, but a reflection bearing hallmarks of shadow and relief, texture and insight. In Zhungde's painting, the sun, of course, gave rise to the monstrous, looming, grasping tree, currently blocking out much of the moon's light. But the figure in the foreground here – pensive, admittedly, but still alert for the moon's glow – appears comfortable with the temporary peeking of light through shorn branches. Perhaps she knows that, eventually, the moon will rise above the tree entirely. In the dew of the night, after all, recovery takes place: recovery from the previous day, and preparation for the next.

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Himal Southasian
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