After the previews it became clear that the main thing to work on for now would be to figure out the conceptual framework/continuum in which my project sits. So I did a bit of research in these days. Below is what I have so far, together with some ideas on future drawings.
The project situates itself in the continuum of drawing as a way to describe and depict space, but also as a metaphor of a specific way of understanding our reality.
In the history of representation it is possible to identify two currents that have dictated and influenced the methods artists used to describe our world. On one hand one can talk about drawing as a direct way to express the physiological way in which humans see their surrounding reality. This current finds its origin in the classical age, and it roughly coincides with the study of optics and the science of vision.
On the other hand drawing can be a way of depicting the world from a different viewpoint. Rather than focusing on the way our physical eyes perceive the world, this current is more concerned with a metaphysical understanding of our reality, focusing on a psychological aspect of vision rather than a physiological one.
The two currents roughly coincide with other historical divisions of geographical and theological nature. The first one was mainly developed in christian Europe, as it followed a south east to north west axis throughout the ages. It originates in classical antiquity and culminates with the advent of linear perspective in the fifteenth Century.
The second current developed itself mainly in the Eastern part of the world, from the Byzantine empire in western asia all the way to China and the far east. As it is less concerned with realism, this current incorporates drawings and paintings that use parallel projections as a way to construct and project reality.
A series of important figures, from mathematicians to painters, will be the characters through which the story of this visual opposition is narrated.
Each player will have to chose a character at the beginning of the game, and his personality and peculiar view of the world will influence the way in which the cards, and subsequently the drawings, are read. So far there are six characters, which were selected for their peculiar way of seeing and depicting the world.
Alhazen – The Geometry of Light
Ibn-al-Haytham, latinized into Alhazen, was an Arab and Islamic scientist and mathematician, known for his translation and update on ancient Euclidean theories of vision.
He was the first scientist to recognize the existence of light rays, and also the first to construct and operating camera obscura.
For Alhazen, aesthetics and mathematics are expressions of the same thought, therefore his way of representing the world is through pure and abstract geometries, focalised on filling empty surfaces.
His is a world of geometrical correspondences and mirroring: each point of an object is projected through light rays into another point inside the eyes of an observer. The projected points, however are not reconnected as an image, but rather as an abstract geometric mosaic.
Keys: Iconoclast, Geometry, Mosaic, Correspondences, Rays, Psychological View
Giotto – The Natural Perspective of Everyday Life
While poets were rediscovering the qualities of vernacular language as opposed to Latin in the Italian Trecento, Giotto was bringing the subject of sacred painting back to the level of the human eye. After centuries of sacred art featuring figures floating on holy golden surfaces, Giotto paints scenes from the life of the saints in order to bring the city and architectural backgrounds into his compositions, while still retaining a religious subject. In doing so, he adopts a style defined by his contemporaries as naturale. This style involves the use of some kind of perspective, although not yet an accurate one. One painting may have several focal points, as opposed to the single one of linear perspective, developed only two generations after Giotto by Brunelleschi and Alberti.
Giotto is among the first artists to create systematic space through the use of checkered tile patterns for floors (which could be described as the first example of a coordinate system).
Giotto’s spaces are systematic also because they are specifically designed in order to contain the actions of the figures; like a theatrical setting, the architecture of his paintings helps to ground the actions depicted into a specific time and location.
Keys: Floor Tiles, Set, Natural Perspective, Ground, Physiological View
Behzad – Images and Narrative
After the conquest of Persia by the Mongols in the thirteenth Century, many aspects ofthe far eastern style of painting got incorporated in the culture of the Islamic world. One of the main contributions of the eastern invasion was the introduction of images in a culture that had historically banned any realistic depiction of the world. It is at this time that we can observe the flourishing of the art of the miniature in Persia.
Behzad was one of the most prominent miniaturists of his time, known for his ability to carefully orchestrate how a viewer sees an image. His architectures, constructed in rigorous parallel projection, become the tool used to lure a viewer into a composition, and at the same time to unfold a narrative within the image.
The buildings appear flattened onto the page, allowing the painter to represent them from different viewpoints. This multiplicity is used as a tool to collapse a story or a narrative into a single image.
Keys: Narrative, Parallel Projection, Unfolding, Pattern
Van Eyck – The Multiple Perspective
Following the Hockney-Falco thesis, according to which optical instruments such as curved mirrors and the camera obscura were in use since the Renaissance, Jan van Eyck’s work is particularly relevant for its display of multiple perspectives within the same painting.
According to the thesis, painters in the renaissance used small curved mirrors to project images onto surfaces, which were then traced and used as a basis for paintings. However, the size of the projections was only about 50×50 cm, which posed the problem of how to deal with bigger compositions. Van Eyck’s way was to divide the painting into different sections to be traced and then stitched together to form a larger composition. This led some of his larger paintings to have a slightly distorted look, due to the slight alterations in perspective of the different traced sections. The result is striking because it has the ability to really drag the viewer into the painting, making him feel like he is living inside of it.
Keys: Tessellation, Mirror, Tracing, Large Format, Physiological View, Immersive
Brunelleschi – Architecture of the Image
Brunelleschi is widely credited for the invention of linear perspective. Although also a distortion of reality, it has been used for centuries by western artists as the only true way of seeing the world. Linear perspective presupposes the existence of a privileged viewpoint, through which its effect on a viewer would be maximised. The very idea of the single viewpoint had an enormous influence in figurative arts, but also was able to impose itself on the way in which we organise and design space.
Again following the Hockney-Falco thesis, the perspective developed by Brunelleschi was not only an organisational tool, but also a projective one. As opposed to Van Eyck’s tessellated use of image projections, Italian artists used a single projection at the centre of a large painting as a basis to construct geometrically accurate extensions, resulting in pictures which look more geometrically calibrated and balanced, though lacking the immersive qualities of northern European paintings.
Keys: Linearity, Distortion, Order, Projective, Single Point
Apollo 17 Crew – The Orbital View
The Crew of the NASA mission Apollo 17 are credited to have taken the first picture of a fully illuminated view over our planet, titled by the astronauts Blue Marble.
This hugely influential picture almost represents a point of arrival in the history of how we perceive our world. This view is somehow unbiased and free from any theological or metaphysical significance, it is an objective and total vision of our world.
This view, at least in its contemporary digitalised version, enables two fundamental movements -panning and zooming- which have been up until this point in history unused and unseen.
Keys: Pan, Zoom, Total View, Planar View
While the construction of the drawings– the underlying geometry – is based on the conflict of perspective vs anti perspective, the suits, with their conceptual transpositions serve as a basis for the contents of the illustrations, and are what can deliver the narrative of the composition.
The cards and their combinations will become the way to talk about the miniatures/drawings. The awkward juxtapositions of different cards suits will become fluent transitions in the drawings.
The four suits will be used as conceptual units, each having several layers of meaning.
Jungle – Saturation, overlap, fight for survival, verticality, layered view, fast paced cycles, renewal.
Desert – Blankness, big gestures, satellite view, exposure, emptiness, horizontality, scale.
City – Renewal, network, conflict, perspective view, radial, planned, sprawl.
Mountains – Guerrilla, oblique view, barrier, protection, size, surveillance.