Sunday, 15 January 2012

Eyes are playing tricks again

I wanted to get down some initial thoughts about Trompe-l'oeil or trick of the eye which has been a theme running through the art world since it was possible to create such effects.

I am thinking about such classics as Rex Whistler's work at Plas Newydd in Wales. This enormous reception room painted by a young Rex - he died in 1944 at only 39 years old - has his mural along the entire wall and it can only be appreciated in situ to see how the images distort and appear to re-present themselves to the eye. It is so important to listen to the guide and the story of the mural too and it is the domestic detail that appeals the most - the pipe he left in the far end of the picture still smoking because he was coming back. All the petty jealousies and the intrigue of the time!  Every bit of the mural has a story behind it...                                                                                                                                                                      

Rex Whistler's mural at Plas Newydd
The brain is so good at filling in the gaps and seeing what it wants to see - we know that from all those popularised psychology tests using partial words and outline pictures with their multiple perspectives, of course. These artists take things to a different plane though. What about people like Kurt Wenner and his pavement art - this one is in Belgium. How would you feel coming across this renaissance rabble in your local street?

Kurt Wenner pavement
Detail Plas Newydd mural
Apart from playing with our perceptions of 3D these artists are also telling stories and sometimes the messages are very dark as they are
here. Sometimes our own Bristol born Banksy, revered by many 12 year old boys as a grafitti artist, nudges towards Trompe-l'oeil with his works which seem to be inspired by natural decay to make often darkly humorous points about society which are sometimes allowed to stay like this one at a clinic for sexual diseases.
Banksy - at the clinic 
Or the ironic workman cleaning graffitti picture...
Banksy dry humour
Some wonderful Trompe-l'oeil is now available to drape round ugly buildings being renovated thanks to advances in digital technology. Look at this Brussels building I photographed a while back - so clever. It certainly brightened my day.
Draped building Brussels

1 comment:

  1. I love Trompe-l'oeil. If I was a brilliant artist I'd cover the house with beautiful scenes, ones that teased visitors and appeared to move when they moved, but I'm not so I'll have to make do with pictures hanging on the walls.