Friday, 8 January 2016

It's All a Matter of Perspective - Maurits Cornelis Escher, Bridget Louise Riley

When we paint or create we tend to do so in a manner exclusively human, It is after all what we are. That perspective is, of course, singular and unrepresentative of both other animals and of nature but also ignores the fact of science that what we see is only what we observe and not necessarily what is really there. Vision, acuity and subsequent images produced are nothing but a matter of perspective. 

Take Bridget Riley for example...

I first saw this painting as an image on a seven-inch single. The label was, as one suspects it had to be, Vertigo. The group was Juicy Lucy and the song was an old Bo Diddly cover of "Who Do You Love." The song, the group, even the label were all fine and dandy but that image made, still does, my head spin. I felt I was being drawn into an endless chasm, a fatal free-fall into some endless spiral. 
"I used to build up to sensation, accumulating tension until it released a perceptual experience."


Our perceptions come forged from nature. At least many do. Our visual perceptions are greatly attributable to the manner in which our eyes see. For example, when we close the glass sliding door behind us, or indeed someone else has closed that self-same door, our visual abilities allow us to analyse the pellucid matter as being solid. Not so other creatures who have been known to fly into the transparent material. A hawk's vision, sharper and more powerful than humans also sees a vast array of colours and shades we are are unable to. 
This from Science 2.0...
"The eye is not just a lens that takes pictures and converts them into electrical signals, it is the first part of an elaborate system that leads to "seeing".   As with all vertebrates, nerve cells in the human eye separate an image into different image channels once it has been projected onto the retina and pre-sorted information is then transmitted to the brain as parallel image sequences.

Perception by the brain is another matter.  For many animal species, "seeing" is one of the most important senses because every second the eyes record a huge number of impressions which are converted by the photoreceptor cells into electrical signals - that image processing begins in the retina of the eye, where nerve cells separate out the visual information in images featuring different content before transmitting them to the brain."

For us to receive information from the world around us we have a series of organs, ears, eyes, nose which all form part of a sensory system which inputs then transmits that data to the brain. This is  a physical form of energy, a stimulus which enables us to convert these images into a perceptual experience. How much of this though is a force of nature and how much inherited by memory or previously gained knowledge?
Of course, one of the curious effects of looking at Riley's work, apart from its vertiginous quality is the manner in which colour seems to ooze from that which is black and white. An optical illusion obviously but one that again challenges our visual perceptions.

Another artist who saw beyond seeing was Maurits Escher.
Escher, Still Life and Street.jpg
Here we have what seems at first glance a street view. On closer inspection it is a table adorned with a matchbox, an ashtray with spent matches and a smokers pipe sitting in it. Beside this a set of playing cards. Then, as we gaze outward we see a basket with more playing cards inside and to the left and right stacks of books lined up seemingly forming a wall to two buildings.
Again, it is a trick of the eye where focus and perhaps a sleep induced doze have given our eyes the opportunity to explore beyond that which is based on knowledge or memory.
Much of Escher work was based on mathematics. He was fascinated by the Mobius Strip.
"An endless ring-shaped band usually has two distinct surfaces, one inside and one outside. Yet on this strip, nine red ants crawl after each other and travel the front side as well as the reverse side. Therefore, the strip has only one surface."
This fascination led to some fascinating wood cuttings. 
 I find Escher work to be a little too clever. Not by any means bad but sort of playful rather than exciting any inner emotions. It's a bit like hearing some seventies Prog Rock band intent on noodling whilst showing off their virtuosity rather than exploring anything deeper. Riley had this to say about art and artists...

"Beckett interprets Proust as being convinced that such a text cannot be created or invented but can only be discovered within the artist himself, and that it is, as it were, almost a law of his own nature. It is his most precious possession, and, as Proust explains, the source of his innermost happiness. However, as can be seen from the practice of the great artists, although the text may be strong and durable and able to support a lifetime's work, it cannot be taken for granted and there is no guarantee of permanent possession. It may be mislaid or even lost, and retrieval is very difficult. It may lie dormant, and be discovered late in life after a long struggle, as with Mondrian or Proust himself. Why it should be that some people have this sort of text while others do not, and what 'meaning' it has, is not something which lends itself to argument. Nor is it up to the artist to decide how important it is, or what value it has for other people. To ascertain this is perhaps beyond even the capacities of an artist's own time."


In short - what we see is not necessarily what it is. What appears real to us is an illusion to some of our fellow animals. What seems to be reality is, in fact, nothing of the sort. Size for example. We judge big or small on how reduced our thinking is by the nature of our being. Our planet, our Earth seems large but in the scheme of our galaxy and the universe beyond it is very small. Nature is shown how we see it not definitely how it is.
Conveniently and rather conventionally, we accept at face value all we perceive as being real, as being a part of reality but reality itself is only how we perceive it.
"I believe in a deeply ordered chaos"
 - Francis Bacon
Bridget Riley, one of the modernists I truly like, is alive and well and now in her mid-eighties. Her work has always intrigued me. It has an edgy quality to it. Something that begs you to think, to asks questions of it.
In 2006, her 1966 work "Untitled (Diagonal Curve)", yet another black and one white consisting of dizzying curves sold for the obscene amount of $2.1 million. By my crap maths, that is just under £1 million. Questionable only that someone would spend such money on a painting not that artists do not have the right to gain wealth from their talent. She doesn't seem to be have lost her drive even if, understandably, she is slowing down a bit now. One of the greats of the 20th Century. 
 
 Maurits Cornelis Escher's work seems more frivolous to me. It is the sort of art one enjoys for its humour as much as its quirkiness.
Maurits Cornelis Escher was Dutch and was born 17 June 1898 and died 27 March 1972.
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

1 comment:

Tempest Nightingale LeTrope said...

I've always loved Escher's work and op art. Thank you for sharing these!