Artists with a point of view: from Georges Rousse to Rub Kandy

A bright red rectangle stands out on the walls of a building blackened by fire. This is a photograph by Georges Rousse. At first glance, it looks as if the geometric form has been digitally added to the picture — but don't be fooled. In fact, it took about a week for Georges Rousse to create this spectacular rectangle in the "station sanitaire maritime" in Marseille. The illusion involved in Georges Rousse’s artwork is not digital, but optical: the colorful geometric is only fully visible from a specific point of view. Out of this viewpoint, the perfect shape deconstructs itself for the viewer.

In our digital age when any photograph can be altered, Georges Rousse’s pictures create doubt and uncertainty, calling into question our relationship to reality, space, and time. This multidisciplinary French artist and photographer combines painting, sculpture and photography to create perspectival anamorphosis. Thus, as opposed to a trompe-l’œil which produces the illusion that a flat surface is in three dimensions, his artwork creates the illusion that a three-dimensional object is flat: he "makes his paintings in photographic perspective - that is, his figures and backgrounds appear in the images as if on a flat surface, even though they have been painted in corners and stairways and the like [1] ".

The pictorial spaces he creates are both ephemeral and permanent: ephemeral, as he chooses to paint in abandoned buildings which are about to be destroyed or renovated, but also permanent, thanks to the photograph he takes to immortalize the illusionistic image. "I call upon various methods of art: I am the designer of the project, the painter on-site, the architect by my interpretation of a given space, and finally the photographer who coordinates all these actions [2]," he explains.

Just like Georges Rousse, Felice Varini and Rub Kandy play with perspective and perception, and their artwork affect the way we see the world. They explore photography, painting and architecture to "reorder the visible world into a new and unforeseen space [3]". But contrary to Rousse, the point of view Varini chooses to create his artwork is that of his own eye level, not his camera. "The vantage point is carefully chosen: it is generally situated at my eye level and located preferably along an inevitable route. The vantage point will function as a reading point, that is to say, as a potential starting point to approaching painting and space. [4]" In his view, the anamorphosis exists as a whole, with its complete shape as well as the fragments, which can be seen when the viewer is standing outside the vantage point: "That is my purpose: new forms appearing out of the point of view going beyond all known forms."

While Rousse works mostly in derelict buildings which are not accessible to all, Felice Varini and Rub Kandy often intervene in public spaces. If you’re lucky, you may come across one of Rub Kandy’s works in the streets of Rome. This street artist, who paints the walls and the street corners of the Italian capital, explains that optical illusions are making a comeback in public art thanks to photography and the Internet which "make it possible to create other kinds of works, more ephemeral and conceptual ones or works like my anamorphosis. My series of anamorphosis, for example, couldn’t exist without photography. You can prove intervention that would disappear in few days and work where nobody ever enter. The world changes, the artist has to be a mutant. [5]"

A contribution of Sciences Po Paris, by Emilie Cochaud et Maïté Gonnot
Credits photo : Georges Rousse

[1] Andy Grundberg, The New York Times, August 7, 1983
[2] Dominique Roussel, Georges Rousse, monograph edited by Fine arts museum, Soissons, 2005
[3] Exhibition Catalogue, Georges Rousse, Carles Tache gallery, 2003
[5] International Designers Network (IdN), vol. 18, "Street art issue ", May 2011