I’ve been waiting for spring for a while now. If one was to believe the radio, everyone in this region has been waiting for spring for a while now. Two months ago when I returned from India, I assumed, based on the experience of nine winters, that I had escaped the most severe part. But Nature mocks our confident notions of having understood her, overturns what we take for granted: I soon learned I had landed in the middle of a harsh and extended winter. Eight weeks hence there are traces of snow on the sidewalks, the car windscreens need to scraped free of ice each morning, and the grey countryside feels like a frame from a science fiction movie portraying an apocalyptic landscape.
But a snowfall changes all that. Last Wednesday, when I opened the window in the morning, the Volkswagen Beetle across the street seemed like a cake with a frosting of fine sugar. Tiny white particles, barely visible, reluctantly obeying gravity, were gathering over all surfaces. Earlier, in February, there was so much snowfall that people ran out of salt for their sidewalks. “A bag of salt usually lasts three years,” one neighbor told me, “but this winter I’ve already spent two.”
Layers – or traces, when less – of white alters the landscape into a minimalist version of the original: still, sparse, stark but beautiful. Tino Aime’s paintings, like the one below, reproduce this effect with simplicity and elegance.
I stumbled upon his paintings in a gallery in Brussels, and while observing them I wondered what an Edward Hopper snowy landscape would look like. But Hopper didn’t paint any snowy landscapes, did he? I wonder why. The loneliness and solitude of people in his cityscapes would, it seems to me, be accentuated in a street filled with snow. I can almost imagine the effect of streetlamp light bouncing off the snow, and the resulting shadows on nearby objects.
Without the relief brought by snow, the monotonous grey of winter would be harder to bear. This winter has been long, but we’ve also had plenty of snow. I’m waiting for spring, but I’m also waiting for the next snowfall.