Q&A with Op Artist + Still Images that Move!
Having recently featured one of Gianni Sarcone’s optical illusions in our social network pages, it received a tremendous response from readers. As a result of the interest, I have conducted an interview with the artist to understand the creation process of these static (moving) visuals, and what led him to work in this art style?
How did you get involved in optical illusion art?
I come from a family of artists. My uncle was a renown sculptor and my grand-parents were painters. My youth was filled with colors, turpentine, brushes, and rich visual experiences. Art is for me as natural as a second skin. As I also love science in general and the cognitive sciences specifically, it was obvious for me to enter the wonderful world of optical illusions: to explore this endless topic and continue my artistic research from another side. So, discovering this new artistic perspective was like crossing Alice’s mirror!
Top: “Pulsating Heart.”
Although the images look simple, I’m sure there is a complexity to making them. Can you give details to your creative and technical processes?
The essence of Optic Art is to play with our optic nerves, to surprise and to create the illusion of colors, dimensions and motion. To make pulsating, rotating or kinetic visual effects, the Op Artist uses a palette of elements like blank spaces, negative spaces, XOR spaces, interspaces, interferences, aliasing, space tiling and repetitive geometric textures. But Optic Art isn’t only based on repetitive patterns that alternate optical contrasts (clear/dark, vertical/horizontal, straight/oblique, thick/thin, and so on), it is mostly a type of research that tries to achieve the maximum visual effect with the most minimal intervention. Some Op Art paintings are in fact both simple and effective.
Precision is also important in my creative processes. In fact, a small change in an Op Art picture can strongly modify or negate a visual effect.
Do our eyes and mind actually play tricks on us?
What we see depends mainly on the brain; it uses the electrochemical signals received from the eyes to make sense of what is seen. But it also adds extra ingredients of its own, such as attention, memory and meaning. It is because of these that on occasion you apparently see something that does not represent reality; everything you observe is affected by the context, your prior knowledge, and your inbuilt assumptions. Even the manner in which you look at things dramatically affects your perception of them.
Has anyone ever commented that your well-executed “moving visuals” are hypnotic and can even cause motion sickness?
Some of my autokinetic pictures are effectively used for medical purpose: for instance to induce hypnosis. Many people have also told me that these pictures made them nauseous. Well, it is clear that, if you look at my self-moving optical illusions while you are in a moving vehicle or riding, you may experience motion sickness. But, fortunately, I don’t need to put a warning message on my art, because it doesn’t trigger epilepsy or any other heavy neurological symptom. It is funny that the Italian agency Grey used one of my vibrating optical illusions called “Hypnotic Vibes” to advertise the eye drop “Alfa Protezione UV.” You can see the poster here.
My favorite art piece is the “Pulsating Heart” (shown at the top of the page), because it looks so different from other illusions. When did you make this and what inspired you?
“Pulsating Heart” is a new re-adaptation of another work I created ten years ago. It is becoming a classic! In the first version the heart was colored in red, then I thought a black heart would be symbolically more evocative (representing the darkness of love) and it would give a Gothic touch to the picture.
As you can see, blur can induce a strong self-moving effect. When you combine a blurred object with a repeating geometric background, you will always end up with a striking kinetic effect! How does this illusion actually work? This optic effect by its nature is quite opposite from the other illusion called Troxler’s fading or vanishing effect, but it works in the same way. The solid central “black heart” is not expanding at all, as it is rather the outer blurred surrounding that is slowly shrinking (in fact, disappearing) due to unvarying visual stimulus, giving the impression the solid black heart expands.
What artists from the past have influenced your work?
I am an adept of the “Wabi-sabi” aesthetic. I like simplicity and raw sincerity in every branch of art. In general, I enjoy modern art and I am very eclectic in my preferences: Joan Mirò, Alexander Calder, Jean Tinguely, Kasimir Malevitch, Lucio Fontana, Georg Baselitz, Daniel Spoerri, and even Odilon Redon. In short, I take inspiration from any artist who strongly puzzles me. Besides Op Art, The Bauhaus School and Suprematism are probably the art movements that most resonate within me.
All images © Gianni Sarcone