Posts Tagged ‘scale’

As many of you may know, the image below is a famous demonstration of a visual trick. What appears to be a photograph of Albert Einstein becomes a photo of Marilyn Monroe if you view it from further away. This is done by playing around with detailed edges and blurred areas. The person who put this image together utilized an understanding of how most humans pick up images and interpret them. This plays on our ability and preference for focus. Apparently, our tendency to take in and process lines and areas was honed by evolution (“Is that a tiger over there? Who cares, I see stripes, I’m outa here.” We are selected to see obvious details first). It seems many of the art world’s masters knew of this trait and how to exploit it.

      I tried to demonstrate this using Flash. Although I’m using scale and compression as opposed to distance and actual focusing of our eyes, I think the effect is the same. That is, accentuating the sharp details (by being close to the image, which is analagous to having a large/high-res image ) or accentuating the blurry parts (far away, which is analagous to small or low-res). Try playing around with the Flash dealy below:

Get Adobe Flash player

      Artists such as Paul Klee made this a feature of their work, which is why a Klee painting can have very different effects depending on the viewing distance.

Paul Klee's Zaubergarten. Try moving away from the screen.

Paul Klee's Zaubergarten. Try moving away from the screen.

      Whereas Klee made visual focus a feature of his work, Mark Rothko made it his subject of interest:

Mark Rothko's Yellow and Orange. No lines at all, but there are definite shapes, ie. the rectangles.

Mark Rothko's Yellow and Orange. No lines at all, but there are definite shapes, ie. the rectangles.

      I think I finally get Rothko (somewhat). I think the weirdness of his paintings is that he gives you nothing to focus on. We know there are basically two rectangles, yellow, and orange. This is easy. But everything is soft and undefined. No lines, and the colours aren’t solid. Not exactly my favourite painting or my idea of a good time, but it’s an interesting idea and it really makes you think.

      So how crazy can this get? Da Vinci crazy. He took it to another level by building it into the Mona Lisa’s face. Some details of the face are soft, some are more well defined. He is playing around with and controlling how we focus on his painting. To me, this is more evident when you move towards and away from the painting. The key areas I think are the shadows on the outside corners of the eyes (which affect the shape of the eyes and therefore her expression), and the shadow on the corner of the left side of her smile. By playing around with our perceptions, Leonardo changes the degree of the smile. So I think, there is no real answer to what kind of smile it is, because it depends on where we are standing when we look at the painting. Try it out for yourself:

Get Adobe Flash player


Better Tag Cloud