Intrigued and fascinated by the nature of perception and perspective, artists have been creating different kinds of illusion art for centuries. Puzzling and confusing the viewer’s perception, the beginning of the optical illusion art can be traced back to the 1950s and the Op Art and Kinetic Art movements. Exploring the science of observing through new technologies and psychology, these artists created historically important thought-provoking artworks. Employing abstract patterns, geometric shapes and a high contrast between the foreground and background, their paintings influenced many generations of artists that followed.
M. C. Escher, Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp are certainly pioneers of the artistic visual manipulation, but today’s contemporary artists have made this style branch off into many different directions. Exploring various digital and traditional techniques to create cognitive illusions that force a double take, they dedicate their creativity to create most intricate design patterns, street art and illusionistic paintings and drawings. Using coloured chalk, simple graphics or various painting mediums, they play with our concept of space, time, and reality. Skillfully created to make you question reality, these pieces that alter our senses of certainty are certainly awe-inspiring and unique. When it comes to optical illusion art, the possibilities seem limitless.
For you, we have compiled an impressive selection of optical illusion art varying in medium, technique and philosophy. If you enjoy your mind being twisted by art, proceed to our list!
Fascinated with magic as a child, New-York based artist Aakash Nihalani is now famous for his illusional tape art. Seemingly floating in mid-air, his fluorescent isometric forms invade various public spaces from buildings to pristine forests. His 3D cubes, rectangular cuboids and other geometric shapes are created with luminescent tape and they seem to jump out of their environment acting as a sort of urban trompe l’oeil. Altering viewer’s sense of perspective, these optical illusions enrich and reinvent the structure of the space they are mounted on. These cheeky designs transform urban spaces into playful environments, as they often invite the viewer to interact with them. Since the artist is working with tape, his artworks are temporal and flexible.
Bending the laws of dimensions and perceptions with his illusion art, Jonty Hurwitz creates masterpieces through the meticulous and extensive process. Using precise calculations and months of work, his anamorphic sculptures from Perspex, steel, resin or copper, are specially distorted so that they could be seen only when placed in front of a cylindrical mirror. His works are a result of extreme patience and highly intensive work ethic. An underlying motivator in his art life is to find a line between art and science. He sees his artworks as a way of ‘expressing calculations visually’ allowing him to experiment with cutting-edge manufacturing and fabrication technologies.
Images via jontyhurwitz.com.
Observed from a certain vantage point, paintings of Felice Varini are simplistic geometric shapes that seem photoshopped over regular living space, public spaces, buildings or neighborhoods. His artworks are actually fragmented pieces haphazardly painted in various areas. Using anamorphic technique to trick the eye, his geometric perspective-localized paintings change once the viewer changes his vantage point. Therefore, the viewer is engaging with the artwork by searching for the right spot to see the complete image. His artworks merge with architecture and surroundings, and architectural features influence his shapes greatly.
The project Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor is an artistic wonder with a dash of science. Consisted of mirrors made of polished stainless steel and positioned to distort all surroundings, these installations attracted many amazed visitors and created a mind-blowing effect. With a dazzling experience of light and architecture, these mirrors present the vivid inversion of surroundings and brought the sky down to the ground. Changing through the day and night, this optical object is described by the artist as a ‘non-object’ that suggests a window that seems to vanish into its surroundings.
German artist Edgar Mueller is considered to be one of the world’s best 3D illusionist street painters. Creating amazing 3D pieces on flat surfaces in the public space, he changes the perspective of the viewer. From enormous cracked glacier and rivers turning into waterfalls to the cavernous lava pit, he transforms streets into amazing works of art. Often using photoluminescent paint, his works metamorphose into different things depending whether it’s day or night.
Images via metanamorph.com.
American artist Damien Gilley creates mesmerizing, complex optical illusions from strips of coloured tape and contact paper. Creating immense depth on flat surfaces and walls, his designs are meticulously measured and calculated to perfectly interact with a specific space. Before creating his works, each design is sketched onto the pictures of the specific place. His geometry works are visually flawless and they play with the architecture of the space and challenge the perception of the viewer. These perceptual installations could be seen in public spaces as well as in galleries.
Images via huffingtonpost.com
Argentina-based artist Leandro Erlich creates pieces that question and problematize our perception of reality. Re-enacting domestic interiors or walkways, his pieces create a moment of doubt through the subtle play of mirrors, false bottoms or trompe-l’oeil. Using these techniques to deconstruct or multiply spaces, his pieces are completely mind-boggling. His famous mirrored street art installation in Paris depicted people dangling from the third-floor windows or being perched on roofs and sides. He created this illusion by constructing the façade on the ground and projecting the image with a giant mirror. Another impressive installation is L’ultime Déménagement where a giant piece of the building is floating in mid air and seems anchored to the ground only with a ladder.
Image via highlike.org
Dutch artist Ramon Bruin creates drawings that are intricate optical illusions jumping off the paper. Using anamorphoses technique, crayons and white sheets of paper, he creates drawings that are slightly distorted to display amazing 3D scenes from a certain point of view. His 3D imagery is humorous and thought-provoking and it captured the hearts of the viral art world. Some of his famous pieces include a frog jumping off the paper, two men erecting a falling candle, Lochness Monster scaling its way through the white canvas or flying airplanes. His works are a result of true patience and creativity.
Italian street artist Teo ‘Moneyless’ Pirisi creates optical illusion pieces with nothing more than pieces of string. Positioned carefully, his geometric pieces seem to float in mid-air in wild settings such as forests, bridges or rivers. These mathematical sculptures are very sophisticated and contemplative. Reduced to the minimum, they carry a certain tension and multiple perspectives. Exploring various ways to interpret dimensionality, he engages with these unused spaces through abstract installations. Breaking away from the limitations of hid graffiti background, he explores the meaning behind the form by transforming actual items into idealized and abstract minimal elements.
Images via trueforever.net.
Canadian painter Robert Gonsalves creates beautiful and mind-bending illusions that completely twist the viewer perception. With unclear boundary between multiple stories, the viewer is forced to question the reality of these paintings jumping back and forth between them. Demonstrating a masterful technique by the age of twelve and being influenced by work of Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte, the paintings he creates are complex misdirections. Several image melt into one going in circles, and this mind play creates a dreamlike irrational effect.