Lately I’ve been reading research and I recently watched a documentary on sight and reality.
I’ve posted before about this. The documentary offers a slightly different theory. Paintings sometimes mimic reality. I’ve noticed that at some point a painting can start to leap off the canvas giving an illusion that you are looking at reality. At first I thought it was detail but some very impressionistic and undetailed paintings can impart this illusion. I’ve noticed it very occasionally in my own work; usually in backgrounds. Curiously the earlier this happens in a painting the more difficultly I have with the work.
The latest research suggests that we maintain a three-dimensional visualisation of the world around us and as we experience more of this reality we update our mental visualisation. Tests indicate that communication between the Thalamus and other parts of our brain that interpret visual information is greatly unbalanced. Visual information is being received by the Thalamus and sent to areas of our brains that are responsible for interpreting it but the information being sent back is almost six times the amount being received. The result is that people subjected to sensory deprivation (either voluntarily or otherwise) see or hallucinate a reality. I think this is what is happening when a painting seems to jump off a canvas. When a painting matches our mental visualisation we have the illusion that we are actually looking at reality.
Unfortunately this doesn’t help an artist much; at least it doesn’t give me much insight on how it might be used. I don’t know what my present visualisation of reality is let alone others. So it’s a bit of a role of the dice. The illusion is probably heightened when one aspect (colour perhaps) is a good match but others like shapes are not. One part of our brain is telling us that we are looking at reality but another is in disagreement. I have been fascinated with images that look like reality but on further inspection are obviously not. I have been experimenting with trying to make one area of my painting look very real (usually the focus) and leaving other areas alone. No good results yet.