Constellation Lecture: POST PERSPECTIVE: Dr. Jon Clarkson

Post-perspective means changing the rules of the conventional stereotypes of perspective and bending them to change the way we as the viewer, see 2D artworks.  Over the years artists have used a vast variety of techniques to change the way we see art through the use of post perspective. These techniques include: Anamorphic projection, drawing attention to the unofficiality of perspective, measuring the visual world against a mathematical standard, blurring realism, multiplying views and viewpoints, adopting a non human viewpoint, doubling and repeating and playing with historical perspectives.

The use of perspective within artworks arose during the early Renaissance – in the 15th century. Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Draughtsman drawing a recumbent woman from the art of measurement’ (Nuremburg, 1538) is an early example that demonstrates how artists first began to identify a method of drawing perspective. In this woodcut, to translate it accurately onto the paper., he draughtsman is using a grid system to draw the woman’s shape. In artworks during this period, Men were usually the viewers and women were the subjects to be drawn. Women were severely objectified. In Albrecht Dürer’s work, the accompaniment of perspective and measurement is a key element.

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After finding this accurate method of drawing in perspective, artists have tried to find ways to bend the rules of perspective, play about with it and almost challenge it, to create “new” art. One technique used is known as Anamorphisis or Anamorphic projection. There are two types of anamorphisis, perspectival anamorphisis and mirror anamorphisis. Perpectival dates back to the 15th century and Mirror the 16th. With mirror anamorphosis, a conical or cylindrical mirror is placed on the drawing or painting to transform a flat distorted image into a three-dimensional picture that can be viewed from many angles. Hans Holbein (the Younger) is well known for incorporating this type of anamorphic trick. His painting “The Ambassadors, 1533” is the most famous example for anamorphosis, in which a distorted shape lies diagonally across the bottom of the frame. Viewing this from an acute angle transforms it into the  image of a skull. There are two perspective images in Holbeins work.

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 Within the field of post perspective, artists like Giacomo Balla and Etlenne Jules Marey have captured motion through repetition. Balla’s “Dynamic of a dog on a leash,1912” claims to be a more accurate representation of a dog that if it were a real image of a still one. Marey’s “study of a man jumping over an obstacle 1884″, is a record of an event in itself, an objective, our eyes cannot record like this and although it doesn’t look like a more realistic view of a man jumping over a fence, it is. Other artists created a post perspective element by measuring the visual world against a mathematical standard. Eadweard Muybridge”s ” A woman getting into bed 1887″ obserds realism and blurs reality within post perspective by giving the viewer an image of many different angles of the woman that you would never really see all at once.

Another artist that has great relation to post perspective is Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp ‘s earlier artworks challenge and question the idea of perspective. His painting: ‘Nude descending a staircase 1912’ is created by combining a series of static poses of a nude in cubist manor. There is a lot of energy generated through the layering of the imagery and a great sense of movement is created. This piece combines perspectival and non-perspectival images. You can pick out specific body parts but the perspective is “confused”. The the painting shows multiple viewpoints which is a trademark characteristic of cubism. There similarities between ‘Nude descending a staircase’ and Eadweard Muybridge’s photography. Particularly his series of photos titled ‘Ascending Stairs’ produced in 1884-85.

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Duchamp also explores post perspective in his piece “Rotorelief no.1”. He asks himself: Can you produce a 3D object without perspective? He clearly concludes that this is in fact achievable because in this artwork, when the rotorelief spins, a 3D image appears completely without the use of perspective.

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The multiplication of views / viewpoints has been used as a technique to create or suggest post perspective. An example of this would be the work of Clive Head and the piece below entitled ‘Rebekah’ – 2008. Like the draughtsman drawing the woman using a grid in Dürer’s woodcut, it looks to be copied exactly. However, although this appears photo-realistic, the vanishing points do not meet. Experimenting and changing the vanishing points on this image have fanned open the foreground and allows more of the world to be seen within the work.  Also, the foreground is not at all parallel he creates the effect of a wide-angle lens but actually draws on the spot. His work is a patchwork of different observations.

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Artist can choose to adopt a non-human viewpoint when questioning perspective. Thinking about where the viewer in the painting actually stands.  An example of this technique can be seen in the works of Therese Oulton. There is no sens e of view in the work, and we ask ourselves where is the viewer? Here, the images are actually drawn from Google Earth, not from direct human eyes.

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Marilene Oliver and Angela Palmer work quite similarly when thinking about perspective. There is a sense of three dimension in Marilene’s “family portrait”, but there is no perspective. Her work is made up of printed sections of cat scans of the body. Similarly, Angela Palmer’s “unwrapped the story of a child mummy 2011” is made up of drawings onto glass of the scans of the child, she displayed them all together to create a 3D image of the child in question, she like Duchamp has created a 3D object without perspective. Palmer plays with the idea that you can reconstruct something without seeing it.

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Angela-Palmer-Ashmolean-Mummy1

Doubling and repetition is an effective method of challenging perspective. Charles Avery’s eternal forest 2008 shows the same tree repeated in-depth to create the image of  a forest. Our own sense of perspective is questioned here, because if this were real, however far you were to walk into it, it would always be the same. This is altering our interpretation of reality and experimenting with post perspective in a very basic but highly effective way. Vija Celmins “to fix the image of memory” plays with post perspective by asking what is real? In this work, there are two rocks, one is real and one is an imitation.  There is the same principle as a hall of mirrors. This undoes the notion of realistic artwork because we have no idea which one is art.

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Playing with and altering historical perspectives is a technique adopted more recently within the art world. The place that an image comes from is highly relevant, simply identifying what a picture is of is not sufficient. Hiroshi  Sugimoto’s “Diana Princess of Wales 1999” is a prime example of this. Is this a photo of Diana after she died we ask ourselves? What is her expression telling us? This is in fact a photo of a waxwork of Diana and once you know this, her expression becomes insignificant because it’s fabricated. Our perspective of this work is changed because we judge a fabrication differently.

To conclude, post perspective has been used for centuries in a variety of different ways. In my opinion, it makes for new, interesting artworks and makes the art far more interesting for the viewer to observe and understand. I think combining realism with perspective and challenging that is a very clever thing to do indeed and the history behind that notion, and being able to see artists learning from each other and moving on from their influences is highly inspiring.

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