Unconventional Canvases: Part 2 – Rachel Levin, Art Lecturer

Rachel Levin, a popular art lecturer who often lectures at the Bernard Betel Centre for our weekly Tuesday Lifelong Learning Lectures, has provided a thoughtful and creative write-up for the Bernard Betel Centre community on unconventional canvases. Enjoy!


The unconventional canvases shown in this article challenge the usage of paper, panel, or traditional canvas. Artists suggest that, just maybe, the traditional media as we know it is passé when it comes to creating art. Today artists are using just about everything they can get their hands on to display their work.

In this article, ceramic tiles create an optical illusion, colourful yarns distort our spatial vision, computer programs using lines to create optical illusions in public places, and an artist is using aluminum alcohol bottle tops to create beautiful wall hangings that look like fabric.


Ceramic Tiles Design Makes a Hallway Look Like the Floor is Sinking

At first glance, one might think that this floor looks too warped to walk on safely. It looks like it’s sinking in on one side, but it’s actually perfectly flat.

This award-winning unsteady walkway can be found at the ‘Casa Ceramica’ showroom in Manchester, England. The checkerboard design comprises of 400 custom-cut porcelain tiles and creates an optical illusion that works from the perspective of the front door. Installed at the entrance of one of the ‘Casa Ceramica’ Manchester showroom, the optical illusion serves a dual purpose.

As visitors enter, the ground before them is designed to awe them with its mind-bogging visuals and ultimately, stop them in their tracks. The floor appears to have melted with only a narrow curved path to cross over. People passing by are encouraged to walk, not run, through the Alice in Wonderland-like hallway. The designers didn’t install the flooring to specifically stop people from running, but it certainly encourages people to take a moment to admire the illusion.


Hand-Woven Walls Create an Optical Illusion with Colorful Yarns

Wies Preijde is a graduate from the Textile Design Department, in the Royal Academy of Arts of Hague. Wies gets her inspiration from rhythmic patterns, textures, and shapes encountered in everyday life or from architecture. She then links these to the weaving techniques that are used to make textiles.

Everyday objects and the way in which they occupy space, such as floors and walls, are constructed using a different material, this way creating the experience of new effects and functionalities. The flattened space and the combination of lines and colours make it look like a drawing.

It’s only when we see a person standing in the room that we realize that the work is a clever optical illusion. Wies titled it Tegendraads, which means contradictory in Dutch. The intriguing installation features various hand-woven walls that skew with our perspective of the space. It blends real and faux areas with an array of patterns as well as vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines.

Since Tegendraads uses overlapping fibers, the walls are slightly transparent and provide us a view to other sides of the dividers. This subtle effect is intended to pique our curiosity and entice us to explore. The installation consists of various hand-woven walls, which together change our perception of perspectives in space. A collection of lines, colours, views, and passageways creates the idea of walking through a transparent home. The flattened space and combination of lines and colours make it look like a drawing.


Artist Uses Optical Illusions to Create Mind-Bending Room Installations

Peter Kogler was born in Innsbruck in 1959. He lives and works in Vienna, Austria. At the beginning of the 1980s, Peter Kogler began to use media and computer technology as the basis for his works; confronting and blending the new technologies with organic motifs. This differentiated him from the mainstream of Neue Wilden (neo-expressionism) painting. Simple basic modules are reproduced and have become identifying features of his works.

His art work is no longer an object on the wall but rather, architecture. Public spaces become mediums for impressive, large-scale works. Peter transforms showrooms and museum galleries as well as railway stations and public spaces into virtual labyrinths which at times contain infinite and bottomless spatial perspectives. These appear to change the dynamic and provide visitors with new spatial perceptions.

The geometric patterns of Peter Kogler transform flat white walls with the illusions of dizzying underground tunnels. The contoured lines that cover gallery walls employ curves and make viewers feel as if they’ve been sucked into a swirling vortex. Some of the designs encompass entire hallways so that people can physically move through the patterns to experience the full effect.

The spatial illusions of pipes, tubes and tracks evoke a nearly claustrophobic feeling that can be associated with underground public transportation. Much like riding the subway, Kogler’s static designs seem to emulate constant, disorienting movement.

Kogler continues to bend time and space with a new series of impressively perplexing optical illusion rooms. Using simple, intersecting lines and bold graphics, he transforms the simple white walls and flat floors of galleries, typical transit stations, and ordinary lobbies into canvases for his optical illusions.

Though entirely two-dimensional, his engaging and eye-catching designs invite viewers to interact with their surroundings and perceive their environments in new ways, if they don’t fall over first!


Gravity and Grace with Alcohol Bottle Caps

El Anatsui (b.1944) is a Ghanaian sculptor active for much of his career in Nigeria. An acclaimed mixed-media artist, El Anatsui gained worldwide recognition in the early 2000s for his shimmering, monumental wall hangings, visual fetes rich with associations to Africa, Europe, and America.

His “bottle-top installations” has drawn international attention; his installations consist of thousands of aluminum alcohol bottle tops. Anatsui sews them together with copper wire which results into a metallic cloth-like wall sculptures. The materials he uses seem stiff and sturdy but they are actually flexible, which often helps with manipulation when installing his sculptures.

Anatsui’s installations resemble woven cloths or tapestries, but are intended as sculptures, not textiles. Bleeding Takari II (2007) is a powerful twenty foot-wide wall-installation which ripples like fabric. The piece is mainly made from gold caps with large patches of red caps which spills down to the floor, resembling blood. The title is intriguing but doesn’t answer any questions; ‘Takari’ is a fictional name.

These expansive sheets, hung in swags are composed of countless bits of brightly coloured metal, the salvaged caps of liquor bottles. His installations are a cross between painting, tapestry, and sculpture. Those wall hangings grew out of his earlier investigations into re-purposing scrap materials, with their attendant cultural associations.

Anatsui explains: “The link between Africa, Europe, and America is very much part of what is behind my work with bottle caps”. Anatsui says he tries to highlight the reference to the distressed connection  between the sale of slaves and liquor, and the transformative power of his art to link everyone involved in its creation.


3 thoughts on “Unconventional Canvases: Part 2 – Rachel Levin, Art Lecturer”

  1. Wonderful lecture re Unconventional Canvases Part 2. Very thought provoking installations.
    There are so many wonderful artists in this world that we do not know or have never been
    Introduced to their work. Greatly appreciated. Again, you opened my 👀 👏👏 Marion K.

    Liked by 1 person

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