The etymological origin of the word ‘perspective’ comes from the Latin ‘perspicere’: to see clearly. When perspective is applied to visual arts, however, it is to investigate the way visual phenomena functions in the different ways we might perceive. This often means concealing the image rather than revealing it.
‘Parallax scrolling’ is an exhibition that proposes a series of visual tactics by artists Nicholas Hatfull, Lauren Keeley and Jackson Sprague. These invite viewers to engage with perception and perspective by utilising simple optical devices, drawing our attention to the process of representation.
Enabling as many views as possible, the exhibition was preceded and therefore introduced by a screening selected by the artists and the exhibition curator, Rebecca Lewin, containing excerpts from diverse films and documentaries as well as a video by Hatfull. The screening traced indirect relationships between the films and the artists’ works that are currently shown in the exhibition at Breese Little. One example is the association between the introduction of ‘Last year in Marienband’, a film by Alain Resnais from 1961 and the work of Keeley, in which architectural lines and the repetition of composition principles are the means to unfold the works’ narrative.
The title ‘Parallax scrolling’ comes from the technique firstly used in computer graphics and now expanded to web design. In this, background images move more slowly than foreground images, creating an illusion of depth. Linear perspective is still very much part of representation today and it is evident in video games which employ perspective in the Western tradition. In computer software, figures and objects are drawn using a perfect geometric grid. Regardless of the vantage point, they adhere to these set rules of representation.
Nevertheless, art is the process of eliminating rigid objects and perspective is not something fixed. We see this in the excerpt of ‘Il Girasoles’, an Italian villa designed by Angelo Invernizzi in the 1930s that can turn 360 degrees, changing the light and the shade. It reminds me of George Bernard Shaw’s rotating shed, constructed by himself in the hope of being inspired in his writings by the changing view point of the window.
John Berger, the English art critic, wrote extensively about sight, noting that the convention of perspective, is a unique characteristic of European art, centres everything on the eye of the beholder: ‘Perspective makes the eye the centre of the visible world’. Everything converges on the eye as the vanishing point of infinity.