Innovating – with Shadow

"He who avoids shadow avoids what is the glory of art" ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

“He who avoids shadow avoids what is the glory of art”

Leonardo Da Vinci

What can leaders and businesses learn from art, artists, and also those who design art exhibitions?

I often quote Da Vinci with “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Last week I viewed an exhibition at the National Gallery in London simply called “Leonardo – Experience a Masterpiece“, where I left in awe at the brilliantly simple innovation used by the exhibition designer to transform the experience of the viewer.

The Leonard exhibition leads you through the thought process of the artist until you saw.. one painting. One, only one. “The Virgin of the Rocks”. In this, one of the rooms focussed on his innovation around “chiaroscuro”, Italian for “light and dark”, but simply his use of shadow.

The absolute wonder of the exhibition, then, was the way the painting was displayed at the end of the journey through the mind of the artist. It was shown with varying brightnesses, background textures and angles of light over a several minute sequence. I found myself an angle off to the side where I could truly view the texture of the oil paint and stood, transfixed, though several of these cycles, marvelling at how different elements of the masterpiece went to the fore or rear of one’s attention and focus.

I had never seen an exhibition like it. Simple, focussed, with one simple innovation, that of varying the light, the shadow.

As I walked away, I found myself wondering about the application of this to business and leadership both in, at one level, what is possible when we embrace the shadow (accept our business and ourselves for all that we are), but also, quite simply, what simple innovation can we embrace that can make all the difference?

Innovation is simply doing things differently and doing different things

me 🙂

Also published on Medium.