As you approach a curve in a parking garage, suddenly a large abstract object seems to float in space just ahead, as if overlaid on top of a static image rather than a three-dimensional setting. You’re not hallucinating: it’s a painted geometric illusion by artist Felice Varini, who has a vast portfolio of similar works spanning decades.
The Paris-based Swiss artist has painted dozens of settings, public and private, indoors and out, that come together into an optical illusion only when viewed from a certain vantage point. From every other perspective, the markings seem random and chaotic, splashed across railings, walls, ceilings and streets.
The effect is so disconcerting at times, that people coming across images of the large-scale paintings often assume they have been Photoshopped. But once you see photos of the scene from different angles, the magic of Varini’s work (and others like it) becomes clear.
In order to be appreciated and understood, these anamorphic illusions require action – movement – on the part of the viewer. But if you never bother to explore the scene in order to make the image come together, Varini doesn’t mind.
“The viewer can be present in the work, but as far as I am concerned he may go through it without noticing the painting at all. If he is aware of the work, he might observe it from the vantage point and see the complete shape. But he might look from other points of views where he will not be able to understand the painting because the shapes will be fragmented and the work too abstract. Whichever way, that is ok with me.”