Sunday, 17 January 2016

3D Street Art in Sentosa and Other Tricky Arts


 Seeing Things in 3D 
When I heard of a 3D street art has been painted outside the Trick Eye Museum in Sentosa, I thought I would check it out (ok, I can do with some walking exercises, but I just need an excuse). The street painting is meant to enter the Guinness Record. No, I don't want to pay money to see Trick Eye Museum. I'm still waiting for the free ticket.

3D street painting, Sentosa, Singapore
The 3D street art in front of Trick Eye Museum

If you look at this street painting, the Singapore financial district skyscrapers is perhaps provided the best 3D effect. If you look at them against the legs of passerbys, the group of skyscrapers look more like a 3D model than something that's painted on street flat in 2D.

Since I was there alone, I didn't have anyone I can take photo with. If I can get somebody to stand right next to the CBD skyscrapers, the effect of 3D would be even better than it's shown on this photo.

The effect of the lady in red on the extreme left side of the photo that she's standing on the cliff is also quite good.

Here she is again in the photo below where she appears to be stand on the edge of the cliff about to fall into the blue water below. The 3D effect of the pigeon next to her is also quite good.

3D street painting, Sentosa, Singapore


This kind of 3D street art, (aka 3D pavement art) were popping up all over the sidewalks only in the last 2 or 3 years around the world. Suddenly, they're there every angle you turn (unfortunately, the same phenomenon is also occurring with the blasted selfie sticks. There're more selfie sticks than you can poke any kind of other sticks at).

For the technically minded, this kind of art is based on the principle of anamorphic projection. Sometimes it's called anamorphic illusions. It's a drawing / painting that done on a 2D, but when viewing at a specific location or perspective, it appears to be 3D.

The artist usually indicates where you should stand to look for best 3D effect. Of course, I would take photo of the picture above by standing at the spot indicated by the artist. Look for instruction written on the ground near the painting that says something like "Stand here to take photo".


 Old Art Renewed 
While this 3D pavement art fashion trend started only a few years ago (as far as I know), this kind of painting has been known for more than a few centuries. It was at least known as early as 16th century when the great German born painter Hans Holbein the Younger who completed his masterpiece the Ambassadors (1533).

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger
The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger
Source:  National Gallery à  Londres

This is a well-known painting for its many hidden massages or symbols. One of such symbol is a mysterious looking thing on the floor in the foreground. If you look at the painting front on, which is the normal way of viewing a painting, you wouldn't able to make it out very well what is supposed to be.

But if you move to the side and below the painting and view it at an oblique angle and the correct distance, this anamorphic image will reveal itself to be a skull.


Anamorphic skull, the Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger
The skull when viewed at the right angle or perspective.
Source: wikimedia, user Opoterser.

 Of course, it's entirely possible that this anamorphic technique were known a long time before Holbein used it in this painting.


 More Arts to Trick the Eyes 
Not surprisingly, artists have long been having a love affair with the play of perspectives in their arts. Here's just 2 more examples.

I saw both of these in less than the last 2 months.

The 1st one was a exhibit in National Gallery Singapore when I visited it during its grand opening.

This is an artwork by Mathew Ngui, entitled, oddly, Chair (1997).


Sculpture, Chair (1997) by Mathew Ngui, National Gallery Singapore
An empty chair sits quietly at a corner
This chair is unsittable (short for unsuitable for sitting)

From a specific angle, you see a chair leaning against a corner. But if you walk away from this particular spot (that I took my photo), in other words, viewing from a different angle, you don't see the chair anymore. You just see a random scattering of parts that made up the chair (in our mind).

Sculpture, Chair (1997) by Mathew Ngui, National Gallery Singapore

Sculpture, Chair (1997) by Mathew Ngui, National Gallery Singapore
Excuse me...Is that the Ikea's DIY thingy ? Where's the instruction manual ?
It's a DIY in your head...

This Chair sculpture is slightly different than the 3D street drawing in that it's not creating a illusion of 3D object from a 2D plane; rather it creates an illusion of a familiar object from a disjointed assembly of parts. They share one thing in common, that they have to be viewed from one specific spot in order for it to work.

I don't know if this piece is a permanent exhibit. If not, they might have picked up the pieces when this exhibit ends.


I saw the next sculpture while I shopped in Suntec City last week. It's a sculpture by Sun Yu-li, entitled Abundance III (can I assume that there're at least 2 more sculptures in the series that are scattered around Suntec City).

Abundance III by Sun Yu-li, Suntec City, Singapore
Abundance III outside Suntec City

As I walk around from left to right of this sculpture, naturally, I thought to myself: "as I'm continue my walking, I'll eventually see a circle". I was thinking that this is a cylinder, not unlike a wedding band, just far bigger.


Abundance III by Sun Yu-li, Suntec City, Singapore

Abundance III by Sun Yu-li, Suntec City, Singapore

As it turned out, Mr. Sun was trying to play with my optical or perceptual assumption. All the cross sections of familiar cylindrical objects we come across such as water pipes, gas pipes, wedding band, washers, handle bar, etc look like the 1st photo above from a certain angle. And you - like me - would expect to see a circular ring as we view it from the right angle (by right angle, I mean 90 degrees).

This 3rd photo above shows an object  - a elongated elliptical object - that we unlikely to come across in real life. In art, that's another matter.


 A Matter of Perspectives 
All these 3 sculptures are using different ways to trick your perceptions. But they all have one thing in common: the illusion is that all of them created with the plays of perspectives.

Artists have long been observing, studying, exploring these optical illusion for many centuries. Initially, the European artists learnt over time to replicate the 3D reality onto a 2D canvas by employing ever increasing sophisticated understanding of perspectives. But this anamorphic art is taking this 3D effect one step further.

medieval european painting showing a lack use of perspective
A painting created in the Medieval Europe shows a lack of use of perspectives. It looks flat.
However the houses up the top showed some rudimentary understanding of 3D perspectives

painting, Architect's Dream (1840) by Thomas Cole
Architect's Dream (1840) by Thomas Cole.  This 19th century painting shows a mastery of visual perspectives.

It's only quite recently - like in less a century - that scientists have undertaken research on these areas.

If there's a takeaway, take "Seeing is believing"  with a grain of salt. Nah, better with a quarter tea spoon.


This street art ends in 22 Jan.



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