Lawrence Weschler has a delightful article in the Virginia Quarterly Review on the work of the young twins Trevor and Ryan Oakes. They are very original and persistent thinkers about how we see and the consequences for art. For example, though we’re seldom aware of it, our nose intrudes in almost half the visual field for each eye. This may be subliminally responsible for the claimed common appearance of roughly triangular shapes in the lower parts of pictures. (I haven’t attempted to confirm this, but it’s something I’ll be looking for in future, especially in abstract art; ask me again in six months.)

Most of the article is about a novel approach to rendering perspective, something that June particularly has discussed on A&P. Her prime example of Rackstraw Downes is another artist especially concerned with the wide peripheral vision, like the Oakes twins. The technique is essentially spherical projection combined with independent focusing of the artist’s two eyes, one on the scene being depicted and one on the paper being drawn on. The brain’s binocular vision, attempting to deal with this abnormal input, essentially overlaps the two views, so that the artist can “simply” trace with a pencil the scene that appears to be on the paper. I’ve tried this enough to see how it works, though it would clearly require practice and patience to keep it up. And it can only be achieved for a smallish angular range. So the brothers constructed a frame (see the article) which allows them to build up a panoramic image¬† by building it up bit by bit.

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