Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
 Visual Deception : August 26(Wed) - November 3(Tue)

Giuseppe Arcimboldo <Vertemus / Rudolf II>
c.1590 Skokloster Castle,Sweden
From ancient times, a viewer’s visual experience of an art work framed the work as a re-creation of its subject. The use of various styles and techniques in art works to create an image of what is not in fact there is intrinsically linked to visual illusion. Surely the realist expression that seeks to copy nature, developed in western painting, was born from a fundamental search for visual illusion.

In the history of western art, the techniques of visual illusion have been adroitly used in a lineage of art works that contain elements that deceive the eye of the viewer. A typical example of the artist engaging the viewer’s imagination regarding his imagery can be seen in the 16th century painter Arcimboldo who created unique paintings made up of one set of items that appear to be something completely different. Similarly Erhard Schön’s prints with their distorted images thrill and surprise their aficionados. The use of the trompe-l’œil method that blurs the differences between the actual and the reproduced image, through its investigation of realistic depictions, led to many works in western Europe and later America, that became an intellectual game, one by which painters beguile the viewer’s perception.

At the same time, Japanese artists have long created this type of fascinating image through similar techniques. Whether so-called kakibyoso, in which the distinction between painting and mounting silk or paper is blurred by painting on the mounting material itself, or in the group of strangely surprising images produced by the ukiyo-e artist Kuniyoshi Utagawa, these works all reveal Japan’s mature visual culture.

These deceptive techniques, not necessarily found in the mainstream genres of pictorial arts, became the subject of new focus and attention in 20th century art, a time when such deception developed in surprising and diverse ways. Magritte made pictures that explored the tenuous relationship between image and reality, while Dali revived the double image method in contemporary art. And then there was M. C. Escher, the print artist who pursued the detailed depiction of optical illusions. With the advances in both photographic and moving image technologies, the visual image environment surrounding us has undergone, and continues to undergo, a dizzyingly fast rate of change. In such a contemporary environment, artists have brought to the fore all manner of new expressive tools, often involving the manipulation and transformation of images, and the exposure of the false nature of such images. These and other experiments could be called a new form of visual play for both artist and viewer.

This exhibition will look back at the history of deceptive expression in art works, tracing the classics in the style, while also displaying representative works by artists working in the diverse forms of deceptive expression found in the modern and contemporary eras. Through a dynamic, change-filled, historical perspective, the exhibition will provide an opportunity for the consideration of the endless fascination with visual deception and the relationship between the viewer and visual imagery.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt appreciation to all those collectors both in and out of Japan who have graciously lent their precious works for display, and our deep gratitude to all those individuals and organizations who have contributed to and sponsored the realization of this exhibition.
The Organizers

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
Copyright 2002-2008 Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art.