Optical illusions confuse the brain but most people would agree that they love to explore artworks that make them look twice. Clever artists throughout the decades have delighted in producing work that both confounds and delights using space and perspective to force the viewer to see one thing as another.
Rob Gonsalves (1959) – a contemporary Canadian artist whose works trick the viewer’s perception often merging multiple perspectives and different images into one. His work has been defined as ‘magic realism’ and his painting ‘The Sun Sets Sail’ depicts the silhouette of an aqueduct on the water with a background of clouds, merged with a series of sailing ships that fade into the distance. The ships inhabit the negative space of the arches under the aqueduct, creating an illusion of perceived reality.
M.C. Escher (1898-1972) – born in the Netherlands, Escher made 448 intricate lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings and over 2000 drawings and sketches. Probably best known for his lithograph ‘Waterfall’, Escher’s work challenges gravity, defies logic and plays with perspective.
Shigeo Fukuda (1932-2009) – this Japanese artist once stated that “I believe that in design, 30 per cent dignity, 20 per cent beauty and 50 per cent absurdity are necessary.” His works depicted light and shadow as seen in his design for the poster ‘Legs’. The male and female legs dissolve imperceptibly in a simple repeating pattern. Where does one set of legs end and the other begin?
Salvador Dali (1904-1989) – an iconoclastic surrealist painter, possibly the master of optical illusions, depicting art within art with each painting containing several elements including multifaceted images and negative space as in the ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’ (1937).
Sandro Del-Prete (1937) – Swiss artist Del-Prete paints impossible scenes where perspective is seriously challenged. ‘The Warped Chessboard’ depicts chess pieces, some of which are looking down and some which are looking up even though they appear to be on the same flat surface.
Illusions destroy the perceived reality and substitute it with the impossible. Nowadays, chalk artists are producing amazing 3D art on streets around the world that are astoundingly realistic when viewed from a certain perspective.
Read more about the Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali and the Artists of Optical Illusion.