Artists Note – Hayward Annual 78
Space is the most plastic of all mediums; whether or not our attention focuses upon this aspect of our environment, and it is inevitable that its presence cannot be ignored, the participation of spatial volume as an active ingredient in the aesthetic performance of an art work has never been primary. It has been presented by various systems of compromise and projection in painting, it has unavoidably attained almost equal status with massive volume in sculpture, and achieved equal importance with the more tenuous materials used in early constructions. While it offers the utmost plasticity, it demands the utmost control to render it useful as an expressive means of communicating emotions provoked by specially heightened visual experiences.
Although space in ordinary experience is amorphous, its importance in the visual arts is second only to light. The processes by which, in practice, we apprehend the qualities of space, without necessarily comprehending its nature, are a pro-duct of direct experience by which the visual system learns its rules. The mass of data used to transform vision into sight is a result of co-operative research between the senses. The perception of space in common experience is, of course, an illusion, since the eye possesses no mechanism capable of responding to a ‘depth’ stimulus. The spatial statements of the plastic arts are also illusions, but of a different sort because they are different sorts of space. Painting is, therefore, an illusion of an illusion; every art work has its own illusion, and to be relevant it must be purely visual.
In my own work, the objective has been to find adequate means of giving life to spatial volumes, using modulated enclosures to articulate its original shapelessness. Transparent and opaque sheet materials, possessing minimal volume are the most suitable materials for my purpose. Rectangles are the formal visual elements used to render space sufficiently elastic for the expansions, twists, compression and intensifications of expressive use. It is the relationship of units one to another which determines the extent to which they create illusions of different sorts of space. Space is ordered and constructed by defining it with provocative objects which rely for their
Terry Pope Spcae Construction 1962 (frontal view)
power of evocation on the spectators set of basic perceptual references acquired in practical experience. To unravel the multitudes of clues, which together present the illusions of depth it has been necessary to conduct experiments with models and instruments. One instrument relatively simple to make which affords spatial experiences of an unusual character, does so by extending the normal binocular parallax. It is in effect two horizontally opposed periscopes, although its design is more flexible than a periscope to make different extensions of parallax possible by movement of the prisms and mirrors. By experiment, it appears that the brain, which normally has to synthesise images differing only by one per cent, is caple of synthesising the two images even when they differ by as much as eleven percent. The quality of forms and planes of the human head assumes a quality similar to exploded engineers drawings and some cubist work, but far more vivid. In some circumstances scale is affected considerably. Normal parallax ceases to be effective at distances greater than 100 meters. Using the instrument, buildings and landscape at distances up to 1200 meters take on the appearance of scale models, since within normal terms of reference objects at such a distance do not possess such a pronounced spatial aspect. They do, of course, lack the decisive edge of near objects.
These experiments and others have been carried out in order not only to guide in a sense the spectator’s response to an art object, but also to achieve a fluency with and think creatively in terms of the fundamental laws of perception. If this can be done successfully then the work will have the authority to fixate the spectator: communication can be direct.
One of the more recent sciences might eventually shorten the gap between the artist’s visualization and the spectator’s appreciation. This science is Electroencephalography, or Eeg. It is concerned with recording and anlysing the electrical activity of the brain and its relationship to the behaviour of the nervous system.
Contemporary successes suggest that in a more sophisticated form than at present it is conceivable, though perhaps offensive to some, that an artist’s experience could be recorded and replayed to a recipient. Should this happen, the art work as an individual physical object might become redundant in some areas of expression. We will have to wait and see.
Terry Pope Spcae Construction 1962 (side view)