02 December 2017

Illusion confusion

Have a look at this before you read on - do you "get it" immediately?
It's a fabric sample from the Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A, and it struck me as the weirdest textile design. For the longest time I couldn't figure out what it might be! 

Suddenly I saw that the coloured areas were not objects but the background - duh. The interesting part, or what's usually the interesting part, has become the usually unnoticed "negative space". How confusiong! 

I had been enjoying looking at the coloured shapes, seeing (=imagining) battles between strange dragons or other monsters, or perhaps an unknown geography with short rivers draining into large, lobed lakes.  

But it's "merely" white flower-shapes, on a coloured ground, and that view has taken over - my imaginings have disappeared into the background. It's become difficult to shift to seeing the coloured areas as foreground, as the subject. 

Now that I can give the pattern words, a name, a description, I can see the flower shapes - but until I could, what I saw was the dark, fractured shapes, and they eluded description and naming, because I  couldn't figure out what they were intended to be. 

The dark shapes fit in rather well with my "monster" theme ... something evil or undesirable could, or even must, be lurking among those shapes. Though the sinister element is likely to be that veryvery frightening thing, loss of language, not being able to find the right words. It's easier, and more comforting, to focus on the flowers, even though they're not actually there.


Olga Norris said...

That positive-negative flipping thing is interesting, especially when one's brain tries to retrieve the other view. It strikes me as in interesting way to generate abstract shapes from what might otherwise be a banal image, just to trace the negative shapes then remove the original. I once saw a work by Emily Jacir in Oxford at the Veil exhibition. It was not negative shapes, but a similar idea:

From Paris to Riyadh (drawings for my mother), 1999-2001, marker on glassine, 21 x 29,7 cm. White sheets of transparent paper with stains of black ink. When having a closer look at them, the stains turn out to be silhouettes of female bodyparts. Each work-group corresponds to an issue of the french "Vogue", on which Emily Jacir worked page for page. A memory of the artist's childhood, when her mother had to blacken the naked parts of women's bodies in fashion-magazins, in order to take them with her from France to Saudi Arabia.
(The above text from here: http://www.koeniggalerie.com/exhibitions/1745/about-us/ where there is also a photo of the work)

irene macwilliam said...

I immediately saw a bat in flight and then convinced myself I could make out another abstracted one and then my eye perceived the leaf shapes but I prefer the abstract.

Now to me the interesting thing is whether by using different colours and shades instead of black one finds this reversed vision thing exists or does not. A whole new thing to explore and does size or area of design of the image affect ones brains perception. So many variables to explore...