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NOTHING IS REAL. EVERYTHING IS TRUE. BY EMILY MARTIN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Art New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Professor Kim Ande rson Sarasota, Florida May, 2013
ii This thesis is dedicated to Diana Martin Thank you for drawing on my lunchbox napkins, helping me put together countless puzzles, and forgiving every spot of paint on the living room furniture.
iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Image List............................................................................................................... i v Abstract..................................................................................... ................. .............vi Introduction..............................................................................................................1 History........................................................................................................... ...........4 Theory....................................................................................................................1 2 Influences................................................................................. ......................... .....16 Work......................................................................................................................2 3 Conclusion ............................................................................. ...............................3 1 Bibliography........................................................................... ...............................3 2 Images........................................................................................ ............................3 3
iv IMAGE LIST Figure 1. Signed Herakleitos, The Unswept Room 2 nd century CE. 2. Pozzo, Andrea. The Apotheosis of St. Ignatius, 1691 94. 3. Van Hoogstaten. Samuel, Still Life with Wall Rack c.1960. 4. Gysbrechts, Cornelius. Reverse Side of a Painting, c. 1670. 5 Harnett, William Michael. The Old Cupboard Door 1889. 6. Haberle, John. The Slate (Leave your Order Here) c.1895. 7. Haberle, John. Torn in Transit c. 1890 98. 8. Johns, Jasper. Flag, 1954 55. 9. Johns, Jasper. Painted Bronze 1960. 10. Celmins, Vij a. To Fix the Image to Memory, 1977 82. 11. Celmins, Vija. Bikini, 1968. 12. Celmins, Vija. Hiroshima, 1968. 13. Celmins, Vija. Clipping with Pistol, 1968. 14. Celmins Vija. Table with Tablets, 2008 10. 15. Wirths, Rene. Brille 2012. 16. Wirths, Rene. Kas ette 2012. 17. Hayes, Kirk. Kirk's Chair Dance 2010. 18. Hayes, Kirk. Happy Worms, 2010. 19 Hayes, Kirk. Weary Warrior 2012. 20 Martin, Emily. Drywall, 2012. 21 Martin, Emily. Wooden Boxes, 2012. 22 Martin, Emily. Wooden Squares, 2012.
v 2 3 Marti n, Emily. Painted Plywood, 2012. 24 Martin, Emily. Brick 2012. 25 Martin, Emily. Rebar 2012. 26 Martin, Emily. PVC 2012. 27 Martin, Emily. Construction Series Installation, 2012. 28 Martin, Emily. Childhood Series Installation, 2012. 29 Martin, Emily. Alphabet, 2012. 30 Martin, Emily. Still Life, 2012. 31 Martin, Emily. Home, 2012. 32 Martin, Emily. T Series Installation, 2013. 33 Martin, Emily. Shirt, 2013. 34 Martin, Emily. Bag, 2013. 35 Martin, Emily. Golf, 2013. 36 Martin, Emily. C ircle Series Installation, 2013. 37 Martin, Emily. Plate, 2013. 38 Martin, Emily. Blade, 2013. 39 Martin, Emily. Stump, 2013. 40 Martin, Emily. Single Object by Color, 2013. 41 Martin, Emily. Red Buttons, 2013. 42 Martin, Emily. Multiple Objects by Color, 2013. 43 Martin, Emily. Single Object by Subject, 2013. 44 Martin, Emily. Multiple Objects by Subject, 2013. 45 Martin, Emily. Dirt 2013.
vi NOTHING IS REAL. EVERYTHING IS TRUE. Emily Martin New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT In trompe l'oeil painting, th e meticulous, ritualistic reproduction of ordinary objects results in both metaphysical and formal problems which I examine in various ways in Nothing is Real. Everything is True. The tradition of trompe l'oeil, whose strict est form originates from seventeenth century Netherlands, intentionally lacks narrative, pictorial depth, and temporal relativity. The exact replication of the object(s) causes a tension between the figurative and literal interpretations of the painting, c reating the potential reading of the painting as a treatise on representation, perspective, and the principles of reality This work is further s ituate d within the theoretical framework of Jean Baudrillard, Roland Barthes, and Hanneke Grootenboer. When con fronting these vestiges of the everyday, the viewer must contemplate, meditate, and observe precisely what is being exhibited, and in turn succumb to the acute, negative pleasure created by the intense sensation of dj vu. Kim Anderson Division of Hu manitie s
1 INTRODUCTION Trompe l'oeil translated from the original French means "deceive the eye" (from tromper "to deceive," and l'oeil, "the eye"). It is a term that has come to refer to much of illusionism in general but was created originally to desc ribe a very specific kind of process, if not an entire genre defined by the following conditions: only stationary objects were depicted in their actual size, uncut by the edge of the painting, in natural colors, with appropriate lighting that corresponds to hanging conditions, and blending into their surroundings. The resulting still lifes are highly realistic, almost to the point of optical illusion. While these rules may seem arbitrary or unnecessary the resulting work born of this ritualistic adheren ce to such stip ulations developed a "pure form" or process which continues to address timeless questions of truth in painting, perspective, and reality even today. Jean Baudrillard, in his essay The Trompe L'oeil (1988), described trompe l'oeil as a str ict genre that has become an unchanging ritual throughout history because "it is not derived from painting but from metaphysics 1 Trompe l'oeil, true to its original definition, has remained an important working method throughout the passing centuries and can even be found incorporated into the work of many contemporary artist s who use it is as a lens for addressing the basic questions of metaphysics: what is there and what is it like? This thesis will explore the use of such a working method by adherin g to the principles of trompe l'oeil painting to the strictest degree. Each painting was 1 Jean Baudrillard, "The Trompe L'oeil," in Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France
2 executed in oil on the flat surfaces of an object, i.e. panel, block, or dowel. Each piece is one singular self contained object and the object does not extend beyond the field s of the flat surface s While most of the objects are made of traditional wood, panels of steel and melamine were also used The paintings were executed directly from the reference object or were completed from reference photographs of the object in suitable lighting conditions. Using technology to aide trompe l'oeil execution has been tradition since the seventeenth century and does not affect the resulting work. Through the strict performance of the ritual stated above, the resulting art in thi s thesis functions in on e of two ways: it either highlights the ability of this working method to introspectively explore deeper issues surrounding its own representation and the resulting effect on an audience or it functions as a platform to explore issu es outside the typical scope of trompe l'oeil, for example, playing within the fields of semiotics, phonetics, and collection and organization. Both of these functional groups are made possible through the suppression of the symbolic message by layering th e object through trompe l'oeil painting. In order to contextualize my work, I outline the evolution of trompe l'oeil and discuss the importance of its development as a separate genre in the seventeenth century. In addition to lo oking at scholarship that a nalyzes trompe l'oeil from an art historical perspective, which often approaches still life from an iconographic point of view first, I also look at essays by Norman Byrson and Hanneke Grootenboer that examine trompe l'oeil works as vehicles or platforms t o ask questions about representation, perspective, and the principles of reality.
3 Along with looking at historical trompe l'oeil, I also situate my work within the contemporary sphere and look to artists currently working in this method: Vija Celmins uses trompe l'oeil to create impartial reproductions of objects, later displaying them with their prototype; Rene Wirths uses ritualistic execution to create illusionistic large scale painting s of singular objects; and Kirk Hayes, a lesser known artist, uses tr ompe l'oeil to reproduce haunting, handmade collages that hints at the obsessive and disturbed.
4 HISTORY The history of trompe l'oeil can be traced back to antiquity. In Pliny the Elder's Natural History he tells the story of two rival painters, Parrha sios (active 440 390 BCE) and Zeuxis (active 435 390 BCE), who decided to see which of them could paint the most realistic pictures. When it came time to show their respective work, Zeuxis produced a painting of grapes so convincing, a bird attempted to pe ck free the fruit. However, when Zeuxis demanded to see his rival's work from beneath the curtain concealing it, the curtain itself was revealed to be the painting. 2 Whether this story is true or not as Pliny is not always a reliable source, two conclusi ons can be drawn from this account : one, that the realism he described was greatly revered and two, that these cases of realism could not only deceive the human eye but could also bewitch those of animals 3 This level of realism or mimesis would be one of the most appreciated qualities of painting through out mos t of history until the invention of photography when it was "freed of the obligation to depict anything at all 4 For many reasons, still life is especially associated with this mimesis and is simul taneously praised for its adherence to nature and criticized for its lack of concept or narrative. Apart from Pliny's records, there exists more concrete evidence of trompe l'oeil in ancient times. The mosaic pavement known as the Unswept Dining Room seco nd century CE (Figure 1 ) is a prime example of mimetic tendencies in Roman art used to remind viewer s of their own mortality. "Indeed, as long as mimesis in art was valued, tricking the eye was one of the chief aims of the still 2 Sybille Ebert Schifferer, Stil l Life: A History (New York: Abrams, 1999), 15. 3 Ibid, 34. 4 Ibid,16.
5 life, as it was of other t ypes of illusionistic portrayal 5 While this can be considered one of the first trompe l'oeil works, the expression trompe l'oeil should only be applied when speaking of the very specific art form it was coined to identify a very unique kind of meticulo us still life painting that first became popular during the transition between the Renaissance and the Age of Reason, the seventeenth century. This distinction may seem arbitrary, but in order to understand trompe l'oeil as an individual and intensely uniq ue formal genre, it should be clearly separated out of the overa rching category of illusionism. This distinction is therefore important for understanding my work because I wish to address issues that can often be lost when the rules are not followed. Alth ough no rules were clearly delineated, examples of trompe l'oeil from the period of its conception form a trend that alludes to a set of unofficial standards that clearly define trompe l'oeil in its "p ure form. The parameters are as follows: the essential difference between trompe l'oeil and still life is the former exists strictly within the limits of the frame; subjects remain in foreground, near the viewer's plane of vision; everything must be shown as it would be in real life, fixed in a position with no potential energy or possibility for change; the source of light depicted in the painting must correspond to the conditions in which it is hung; the rendered objects are neither minimized nor magnified and are a wholly impartial reproduction of a fixed r eality; finally, the paint must be applied with the strictest of control, as the brushwork should be inconspicuous and anonymous. 5 Ebert Schifferer, Still Life, 16.
6 Because these rules were never set in stone, trompe l'oeil is a term often conflated with illusionistic painting in general an d is used to describe any painted scene of incredible realism, such as the ceiling decoration by Andrea Pozzo in the Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius known as The Apotheosis of St. Ignatius 1691 94 ( Fig. 2 ). 6 Trompe l'oeil and illusion ism have two very distinct meanings. Illusionism employs perspective and realism to create a scene of invented reality that requires the viewer to suspend disbelief and see the painting as a portal into the domain of imagination. Trompe l'oeil, on the othe r hand, "stands by itself as a self contained rendering of objects in their entirety 7 It was a radical departure from other realist genres of the seventeenth century because it lacks narrative and the presence of human beings, it is the opposite of an ac tive moment without suggesting the passage of time, and lacks any pictorial depth. Now that trompe l'oeil has been defined and separated from its neighboring genres, it will be much easier to see how this meticulous ritual came into being and how it has p ervaded through the centuries. It was my intention with this thesis to only create trompe l'oeil paintings that adhered to these original seventeenth century standards because of both the stylistic and conceptual facets of such a structured genre Therefor e, the historical context from which trompe l'oeil originated deeply informs my work. It was not until the second half of the seventeenth century that trompe l'oeil emerged as a separate genre, known as bet riegertje ("little deception") or oogenbedrieger ( "deceptio visus") ; it would not 6 Marie Louis d'Ortange Mastai, Illusion in Art: Trompe L'oeil: A History of Pictorial Illusionism (New York: Abaris Books, 1975), 11. 7 Ibid.
7 come to be known as trompe l'oeil until c.1800 in France 8 Because of t he widespread interest in optical experiments and instruments in the Netherlands during this period, the autonomous trompe l'oeil genre thrived. Samuel v an Hoogstraten, perhaps the most notable of trompe l'oeil artist in the early 1600s, dedicated himself entirely to this new technique and process. Van Hoogstraten was the first artist to develop one of the most persisting trompe l'oeil, the wall rack pain ting. In Still Life with Wall Rack (sometimes known as Feigned Letter Rack Painting) c. 1960 (Fig. 3), van Hoogstraten reveals his obsession to show every texture, every material with an extreme degree of illusionism. Like his contemporaries, he sought to understand his subjects with optical experiments in order to replicate them with absolute accuracy. "The trompe l'oeil served as a demonstration of the scientific, mathematically accurate reproduction of nature," thus confirming his prowess as an intellec tual painter, or pictor doctus 9 Like van Hoogstraten, technology has also influenced my own process. In addition to working from life, I also worked from high resolution photographs, allowing the resulting work to have an extreme level of accuracy and tw o dimensionality. In many ways, trompe l'oeil, and illusionism in general, is the companion process to the advancements of optical instruments. With the improvements made in digital photography and partnering computer programs in the last decade, it only m akes sense to once again use trompe l'oeil painting as a parallel that questions the nature of an image and its place within reality. 8 Ebe rt Schifferer, Still Life, 16. 9 Ibid, 166.
8 After seeing one of van Hoogstraten's wall rack paintings, fellow artist Cornelius Gysbrechts devoted himself exclusively to trompe l' oeil, pushing the limits of the technique to new, intriguing heights. In h is most seminal work, Reverse Side of a Painting c. 1670 (F ig. 4 ), Gysbrechts, rather than approaching painting from an aesthetic or iconographic point of view, uses te chnique and composition to approach art as a problem in and of itself. With Gysbrechts, art historian and critic Victor Stoichita claims, "Painting has become fully aware of itself, of its being, and of its nothingness 10 In truth, Reverse Side of a C anvas is indeed a trompe l'oeil of a trompe l'oeil. "The underlying intent was to cause the viewer to completely forget technique altogether, and thus force the mimesis praised by classical writers, to the point where the existence of the painting itself is a lmost completely denied 11 It is in this painting, that the idea of anti painting or as Baudrillard says, "anti representation," is realized most clearly, an idea which will be discussed in the next section. The end of the seventeenth century and the Gol den Age did not bring the end of trompe l'oeil. However, it was not until the nineteenth century that trompe l'oeil began feeling the effects of the change began by Gysbrechts in the 1670s. With the invention of the photograph in 1839, there is noticeable surge in trompe l'oeil later this century. It is in the work of American artists William Michael Harnett and John Haberle tha t trompe l'oeil was pushed to a new extreme; the boundary between image and reality was blurred to such a degree, not only is the e ye being fooled, but also one's sense of touch. 10 Hanneke Grootenboer, The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in Seventeenth Century Dutch Still Life Painting (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 146. 11 Ebert Schifferer, Still Life, 170.
9 Harnett often foregrounded the handmade, sentimental value of the objects he depicted, yet he suppressed any kind of painterly mark. This gave his paintings, such as The Old Cupboard Door 1889 (Fig. 5 ), a m achine made appearance. "Their reproduction of reality is as objective and impersonal as was that of the newfangled camera, Bell's tele phone, or Edison's phonograph." 12 Once again, the effect of new technology on illusionism presents itself most strongly in trompe l' oeil paintings, where the obsession with containing reality is easily seen. While Harnett adhered to a more traditional method of composition, Haberle followed more closely in the footsteps of Gysbrecht's Reverse Side of the Canvas. In The Slat e (Leave your Order Here) c.1895 (Fig. 6 ) the painting looks like an actual slate used to record orders; however, it is not the meticulous execution that marks this work as a departure from traditional seventeenth century trompe l'oeil, but rather, the d ecision to create a single, self contained object entirely indistinguishable from its prototype. While many contemporary artists working in trompe l'oeil follow this method of execution, it was Haberle's slates that influenced my work the most and inspired my decision to create individual objects rather than compositions of multiple objects. Another work of Haberle's worth examining is Torn in Transit c. 1890 98 (Fig. 7 ), a painting which highlights the artist's proclivity for reproducing surfaces, specif ically surfaces intended to be written on or painted. "Thanks to the painted twine and the shadows it casts, this picture of a picture whose thick paper wrapping has been damaged in shipping takes on the quality of an object, calling 12 Ebert Schifferer, Still Life 274.
10 into question whether the painting is a n original or only an image." 13 This painting, therefore, raises issues of framing, creation and authorship as the actual subjects rather than viewing the objects depicted from an iconographical perspective. Much of Haberle's work directl y influenced Pop artist Jasper Johns, specifically the question posed by Haberle' s reproduction of bank notes which he effectively responded to with his Flag 1954 55 (Fig. 8 ): Was a picture that reproduced a flat object but was also a flat object itsel f still deception or reality? The question had been posed a century before by Haberle and Harnett's banknotes, but now the traditional mimesis principle was on the line. It was being challenged from two directions from the direction of painting, which wa s denying any illusionistic penetration of its surface and becoming an object itself, as it had already in Cubism, and from the direction of the three dimensional object that portrayed itself illusionistically as it had in Duchamp and in Cubist assemblag es and was attacking the picture surface in mixed med i a works from without. 14 This question became more meaningful when Johns began producing three dimensional reproductions of objects, such as his Painted Bronze 1960, (Fig. 9 ). Claus Oldenburg, in spe aking of Johns' hybrid objects, described them as "bastards" somewhere between object and illusionism. 15 They were absolute trompe l'oeil no longer concerned with simply tricking the eye, but instead concentrated on the conceptual issue of how perception t akes place. It is at this point in trompe l'oeil's evolution that I began to develop my own work. While adhering to rules set down in the seventeenth century, I set out to create self sustaining objects like those of Haberle and Johns. This fusion 13 Ebert Schifferer, Still Life 271. 14 Ibid 379. 15 Ibid, 384.
11 betwee n this timeless process and the modern conceptual issues I address in the next section was the basis from which I began building this body of work. While the above history of trompe l'oeil defends the use of such a method, the following discussion acts as the framework for the c onceptual development of each piece.
12 THEORY While trompe l'oeil is a genre born of the seventeenth century, there has been an increased amount of scholarship in the last fifty years discussing trompe l'oeil not from an art historic al point of view, but from the angle of metaphysics and art theory It is from this point of view that I develop ed my thesis, grounding my work not in the symbolic message of the objects but in their ability to remark on their own representation and the pr inciples of reality by mimicking these principles and refuting them To do so, I looked at Jean Baudrillard's essay "The Trompe L'oeil" (19 88) and Hanneke Grootenboer's book The Rhetoric of Perspective (2005). In addition to using trompe l'oeil as a way to explore vision and perception, I also used trompe l'oeil as a way to explore the suppression of the iconograp hic message in order to address issues outside of symbolism using Roland Barthes and Norman Bryson's discussion of the rhetoric of the image to f rame my own work. From the first sentence, Baudrillard states trompe l'oeil is not derived from painting, but from metaphysics. He further goes on to call trompe l'oeil "a ritual," that in its pure form, is unchanging throughout history. 16 I came to agree with this statement with the production of each object, as each went through the same process of creation. By layering the object through trompe l'oeil, I found each had lost their original atmosph ere of significance, as they were removed from functionalit y and truth and were thusly transformed. Baudrillard describes this transforma tion as the reduction of the object to a blank, empty sign, "speaking of anticeremonial and antirepresentation, whether social, religious, or 16 Baudrillard, "The Trompe L'oeil", 53.
13 artistic 17 It was in this emptiness I saw the possibility of using multiple painted objects juxtaposed together in order to discuss linguistic issues unattached to symbolic content. Barthes discussion of the three classes of message within an image: the linguistic message, the symbolic mess age, and the literal message. 18 Since I included little to no text within my work, the linguistic message s or "text s could only come from the titles. The titles, therefore, were intentionally elusive or empty of meaning. By claiming trompe l'oeil reduces o bjects to blank signs, Baudrillard denies the symbolic message is retained at all and the connotations of the image are removed. While nothing can be purely literal, as Barthes says, there is a "first degree of intelligibility," the point at which formal p roperties such as a shape, color, and form become the nameable object. 19 Within the literal message, the signifier and the signified are essentially the same. I was greatly influenced by Barthes concept of the non coded image and Baudrillard's identificatio n of the no n coded image in trompe l'oeil and developed a series of work devoted to exploring these ideas. In addition to using trompe l'oeil to reduce objects to their representations, I also used this working method as a way to pla y with perspective and perception. Hanneke Grootenboer hypothesizes that "painting is a kind of thinking, and that perspective serves as a rhetoric of the imageThe rhetoric of perspective convinces us of that which painting shows, while it provides a m ethod for that 17 Baudrillard, "The Trompe L'oeil", 54. 18 Roland Barthes, "The Rhetoric of the Image," in The Visual Culture Reader ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff (London: Routledge, 2013), 135 138. 19 Ibid.
14 which paint ing t hinks 20 She then goes on to make the case that trompe l'oeil, along with breakfast still life, are valuable ways to underst and the complexities of vision because of their inherent lack of nar rative; because there is no action, no human players, the stillness of trompe l'oeil presents an opportunity to address the initial failure of perception and the subsequent questions that surround the viewer object relationship from a perspectival or metaphysical point of view rather than first addressing the ob ject from a social or cultural context. Norman Bryson first developed this theory of looking at still life in terms of art theory rather than interpreting the genre based on a historical paradigm. 21 Grootenboer extends this theory and states trompe l'oeil s ability to deceive perception points to a truth that lies outside of the frame. "This truth in painting, I believe, cannot be found by employing interpretive methods that search for meaning, but instead calls for a different mode of looking 22 By combini ng these ideas of both Groote nboer and Bryson, I developed another body of work that comments directly on trompe l'oeil's ability to suggest readings separate from those attached to an iconography. The work addresses the point at which perception fails, th e compelling sense of dj vu that accompanies the realization that perception has failed, and the ability of trompe l'oeil objects to "think rather than "tell" through symbols or narrative. Many contemporary artists have incorporated trompe l'oeil paint ing into their respective methods of production because of the conceptual potential it possesses. By suppressing the iconographic message and highlighti ng the 20 Grootenboer, The Rhetoric of Perspective, 10. 21 Ibid, 28. 22 Ibid, 19.
15 worrying strangeness of such meticulous reproduction, trompe l'oeil painting has transitioned to the contemporary sphere with considerable ease.
16 INFLUENCES Even though artist Vi ja Celmins does not create work with the intention of making trompe l'oeil paintings her work inherently addresses the same issues of representation and artistic process. In To Fix the Image to Memory, 1977 82 (Fig. 10 ) Celmins made bronze casts of eleven rocks she found in New Mexic o while walking in the desert. She then painted each cast to resemble the original stone as closely as possible, a process which adheres to the underlying principles of trompe l'oeil; she did not alter the scale of the stones nor their surface quality nor their symbolic relationship to the viewer. When interviewed, Celmins explained her intention was "to put them in an art context. Sort of mockin g art in a way, but also to affirm the act of making: the act of looking and making as a primal act of art 23 Through the meticulous process required for trompe l'oeil translation, the source model must be assessed, "the looking," in coordination with an a ctive means of production or representation, "the making." When on display, the cast bronze stones are shown with the natural originals, perhaps challenging the viewer to determine what is prototype and what is facsimile. Together, they are enclosed in a s elf sufficient environment in which the stones and their imitations coexist without one holding primacy over the other. It is in this "suspended juxtaposition" Celmins creates a harmony that renders priority obsolete; the representations and the real objec ts look back equally on the viewer 23 Robert Nelson, Critical Terms for Art History (Chicago, Univ ersity of Chicago Press, 2003), 154.
17 In addition to her hybrid trompe l'oeil objects, Celmins also reproduces photographs. Images like Bikini, 1968 ( Fig. 11 ), Hiroshima, 1968 (Fig. 12 ), or Clipping with Pistol, 1968 (Fig. 13 ) are trompe l'oeil renderings of black and white photographs collected by the artist. While her relationship with the rocks was very intimate (she would often carry the rocks around and place them around her home in addition to spending five years observing them as subject), she often speaks of her photographic work in terms of detachment first: "The photograph is an alternate subject, another layer that creates distance A nd distance create s the opportunity to view the work more slowly and explore your relationship to it 24 The simult aneous distance and intimacy creates a wonderful tension in her work Through meticulous re production she elevates a contemplative dispassion that makes it possible to view the emotionally charged content in a new context. By eliminating any pictorial dep th by mimicking the two dimensional flatness of a photographic surface, the reproduced image Celmins produces presents itself as an empty structure that "shows" rather than existing as a mere representation of an object. Clipping with Pistol is not a three dimensional gun, it is not a photograph of a gun, but is a reproduced image of a gun contained on a piece of paper, contained in a microenvironment much like Celmins' rocks. Through this layering process, the symbolic content of the gun is layered behind more pressing issues surrounding its own representation. This idea of layering was a large influence on my choice of objects and their juxtaposition next to each other. Within the scope of my thesis, I wanted to see how far iconographic content could 24 Michael Aupin g, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth 110 (Fort Worth, Texas: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2002), 37.
18 be su ppressed beneath the veil of trompe l'oeil in order to highlight issues concerning perception, the real, and other intangible concepts concerning phonetics and semiology. In more recent work by Celmins, she has returned to the creation of three dimensiona l trompe l'oeil objects. Rather than displaying them in perfect tandem with the originals, Celmins has devised a new way to bring strict trompe l'oeil to the contemporary gallery. For an exhibition at the McKee Gallery in 2012, Celmins made sixteen chalkbo ard tablets perhaps referencing Haberle's slates, out of bronze or wood and painted them to mimic the original set of old slates These trompe l'oeil tablets were then distributed unevenly throughout the installation, disguised by their very proximity to the "real" tablets. In Table with Tablets, 2008 10 (Fig. 14 ), only one made tablet is stacked amongst six found tablets. This procedure differs from the approach she took with To Fix the Image to Memory, where the viewer is presented with a perfect double vision, a surprising sensation of dj vu. Instead, the mimetic tablet in Table with Tablets causes the viewer to bring into question the nature of all the tablets and doubt the reality that is presented. In the work of Rene Wirths, key elements from the tradition of trompe l'oeil have been maintained but the resulting paintings can in no way be categorized as trompe l'oeil. His meticulous practice and methodology, however, was highly influential in the development of my own procedure. Beginning in 2006, Wirths began depicting singular objects on a white background, a procedure he still functions in today see here in Brille 2012 (Fig. 15 ). "By rejecting
19 complexity, it becomes possible to perceive the individual object phenomenologically and thus to pres s forward the thing itself '" 25 With the help of their vertical display, this isolation from any referential context encourages the objects be viewed as blank signs Wirths further separates his objects from their symbolism in the larger framework of his e xhibitions by juxtaposing paintings of reasonably unrelated objects. The resulting atmosphere captured in his work resembles that which can be found in traditional trompe l'oeil; the mysterious light does not seem to come from any one source or direction but instead falls over the banal objects in indirect incidence. Kassette 2012 (Fig. 1 6 ), provides a decent illustration of this effect, as it seems to be lit from nowhere and everywhere. "Here, things have long since lost their shadow (their substance, th eir usage, their reality)" 26 Unlike trompe l'oeil, however, the real objects in Wirths' paintings are shown much larger than life size. Since the enjoyment of trompe l'oeil comes from the unsettling sensation of dj vu, increasing the size of the object fu rther emphasizes the strangeness of the viewer/object relationship. There is no depth, the domain of objects enters the viewers space, and the things see the viewer. Since Wirth s does not operate strictly within the mode of trompe l'oeil, his influence o n my work is mainly seen in the choice of objects and the replication of on e object per work. His justification for choosing which objects to replicate is quite simple. "For Wirths, they are merely something to paint. He selects objects that please his eye that posses a tactile quality and are made from materials that 25 Julia Trolp, "Seeing Things Clearly" http://www.renewirths.de/Julia %20Trolp Seeing%20Things%20Clearly.pdf (2006). 26 Baudrillard, "The Trompe L'oeil", 56.
20 challenge him as an artist 27 The resu lting collection of objects is, therefore, a mass of possessions on display, artifacts in a museum. Not only did I want to create works that both comment ed on trompe l'oeil as a genre and used trompe l'oeil as a platform to explore metaphysical ideas, I wanted my thesis as a whole to act as a collection, albeit a strange one. While little has been written about artist Kirk Hayes, his contemporary work in t rompe l'oeil makes him an irreplaceable part of the history of this genre. At first glance, Hayes compositions appear to be collages of torn paper, corrugated cardboard, aging masking tape, scraps of wood, and oth er various discarded materials; however, th ese "collages" are paintings, executed in the finest and strictest trompe l'oeil technique. His technical skills are indeed like no other, but what is more spectacular about his work is the injection of personal narrative into a genre that is typically con sidered cold, distant, and inaccessible. In Kirk's Chair Dance 2010 (Fig. 1 7 ) Hayes employs collage t o create a scene of the artist shaking his rear end atop a chair. It is both humorous and unsettling in its simplicity. Despite the perspectival renderin g of the chair, nothing recedes into the picture plane because of the unyielding background. As a result, the depicted space shifts constantly, creating a destabilizing effect, highlighting the fragmented nature of the collage. By layering the image s thro ugh trompe l'oeil, Hayes adds another layer of worrying strangeness to his composed narratives. The narratives themselves are all slightly sinister and beautifully simple; however, these scenes often draw on 27 Emily Ansenk, "The Thing Itself," http://www.renewirths.de/pdf/Emily%20Ansenk_engl.pdf (2011).
21 centuries of art history, both through his tromp e l'oeil technique and historical allusion. In Happy Worms 2010 (Fig. 18 ), Hayes refers to a classic vanitas motif of the decaying skull, which was often used to remind the viewer of the ephemerality of life and the inevitability of death. However, this s erious scene is undermined by the five cartoonish worms wriggling through the skull and peering out of the ground. This method of unsettling juxtaposition is quite similar to and parallels Hayes' practice of trompe l'oeil. By creating the illusion of lower grade materials, he undermines the seriousness of highly realistic painting. The dj vu a ffect the audience ex periences, once the y realize they have been fooled, only adds to the discomfort caused by the imagery itself. In Weary Warrior 2012 (Fig. 19 ), the viewer is enticed by the muted colors of the painted panel and cardboard but presented with a scene of defeat and depression. Then, in the moment of realization, the negative displeasure that a ccompanies trompe l'oeil brings the focus less on the subj ect at hand but instead on the radical doubt thrown on reality. In comparison with other tro mpe l'oeil artists, who maintain a certain identifiable painted mark, Hayes completely obliterates any mark that could be associated with his hand. Like Harnett an d Celmins, his re productions of the objects are extremely detached from anything personal and are painfully true to the original. This intense devotion to the real creates a delay between looking at the object and see ing the object for what it really is: n ot real. This idea of delay influenced me greatly when choosing my objects and exe cuting their reproductions because I wanted to create the longe st delay possible; the more time
22 the viewer spends looking at the object, the greater the destabi lizing effect of the deception.
23 WORK Objects, when translated through trompe l'oeil, retain the likeness of the real object but lose its functionality. Like Wirths, I wanted to create a collection of painted objects that, when exhibited, would appear as artifacts on d isplay T he objects reproduced were selected for a variety of different purposes ; however, there is some relation between them as they were all object s with which I came in to contact Many of the objects were chosen for their resistance to reference any sp ecific social groups or cultures and for their un abashed lack of sentimentality; in other words, they are quite plain, suggesting t he viewer's initial reaction should be not one of interpretation but one of perception. The objects are, therefore, quite ind ependent of the audience recalling Bryson's analysis of traditional trompe l'oeil: "Things present themselves as outside the orbit of human awareness, as unorganized by human attention, or as abandoned by human attention, or as endlessly awaiting it 28 Th e literal nature of trompe l'oeil objects cause s a certain indifference towards the audience T his thesis can be separated into two categories, despite their mutual development under one working method. The first category I will discuss is the work create d to explore specific aspects of trompe l'oeil as a structured genre taking an introspective look at how trompe l'oeil reduces perspectival space, renders "first glance" perception false, and unsettles the viewer through dj vu. In the second category, I will look at the work that uses trompe l'oeil as a leveling platform in order to exp lore specific themes outside the genre itself, including 28 Norman Bryson, Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting. (London: Reaktion, 1990), 140.
24 phonetics, collecting, and the reduction of meani ngful objects to literal images of communication. Six objects or series fall into the first category: Drywall, Wooden Boxes, Wooden Squares, Painted Plywood, the Construction Series ( Brick, Rebar, PVC ), and the Childhood Series ( Alphabet, House, Still Life ) ; these will be discussed chronologically within the category in order to best illustrate the development and understanding of trompe l'oeil as an multifaceted platform. Drywall (Fig. 20 ) depicts a decaying field of white paint peeling from a drywall base. It is trompe l'oeil in its pure form despite the use of uncon ventional materials. The frame of the painting is the literal decaying edge of the drywall plane on which the painting has taken place; the painting does not extend beyond these bounds. Since still life often concerns itself with the pregnant moment, whose scenes are often composed of objects containing potential energy for movement or are disheveled as a result of a recent disturbance, e.g. a knife balancing precariously over the edge of a table or remnants of food and bottles fallen on the table, trompe l 'oeil forms a stark contrast in its absolute stillness. In Drywall t ime and s pace have already taken place; t he paint shows the weariness of age and the torn edges of the drywall imply its removal from a larger wall. It has been removed from its original context, but the ambiguity of the image refuses to identify that context. This greatly limits how the object is viewed, leading the audience to see it not as a painting about the original object but a painting about itself.
25 C omment ing less on the ambiguit y of trompe l'oeil and more on its own worrying strangeness I generated Wooden Boxes (Fig. 21 ) The two duplicate cubes were created as a direct illustration of trompe l'oeil's ability to produce the sensation of dj vu. Here, the audience is given two s eemingly i dentical boxes constructed from panels of wood nailed together. Wood was chosen for this exercise in artifice because the grain functions as a fingerprint, entirely unique and one of a kind, highlighting the impossible nature of the boxes' simult aneous existence. This piece was greatly influenced by Vija Celmins' To Fix The Image to Memory I greatly admired her ability to remain dispassionate during the making of a reproduction to such a degree that, when displayed together, the original object d oes not hold supr emacy over the made object, rendering both real and unreal simultaneously 29 Because wood played such a key role in the success of the Wooden Boxes I continued to exploit its properties as a ubiquitous and unique material in Wooden Squares (Fig. 22 ) and Painted Plywood (Fig. 23 ) The former is a joke in the running commentary on perspecti ve. Bau drillard commented that in trompe l'oeil "depth is inverted: while all space in painting since the Renaissance is ordered by a vanishing line that moves into depth, in trompe l'oeil the effect of perspe ctive is somehow thrown forward 30 My goal in Wooden Squares therefore, was to create a vanishing point fo r a trompe l'oeil object that could be simultaneously, and quite literally thrown forward. Th e painted square within in the scope of the larger square can either recede backward or push forward into the 29 Michael Auping, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth 110 37. 30 Baudrillard, "The Trompe L'oeil", 58.
26 viewer's space, a relationship entirely dependent on the position of the viewer The resulting illusion emphasizes the relationship between point of view and perspective and the unique relationship trompe l'oeil has with both. Painted Plywood on the other hand, is a play on perception and time rather than perspective; t he flat field appears to be a piece of plywood being painted white when, in real ity, it is a white board partially painted plywood. This inversion of appearances is meant to have a destabilizing effect on the audience, where one begins to distrust the eyes and the desire to touch is foregrounded in the mind. After working with both d rywall and wood, I decided to continue exploring different textures and their reproducibility through trompe l'oeil. So, remaining within this mode of raw construction materials, I made Brick (Fig 24 ) Rebar (Fig. 25 ) and PVC (Fig. 26 ) As a whole (Fig. 27 ) the translation of these objects into painted reproductions and their placement on the vertical field of the gallery wall reduces them collectively to artifacts on display, a collection of related objects removed from their functionality and condensed into a single sentence: nonfunctioning objects of construction. The Childhood Series (Fig. 28 ) also falls under this format as well. Alphabet (Fig. 29 ) Still Life (Fig. 30 ) and Home (Fig. 31 ) within the context of each other read as a single still life composed on the plane of the wall instead of in the plane of the picture. It is in this still life of infantile scribblings that I wanted to illustrate "childhood, the Double, preexistent life, death 31 Baudrillard claims that these all have the same 31 Baudrillard, "The Trompe L'oeil", 5 6.
27 meani ng and trompe l' oeil creates a sense of loss, of losing hold on the real by its very closeness to reality. Only three works fall into the second group: the Circle Series ( Blade, Plate, and Stump ) the T Series ( Shirt, Bag, and Golf ), and the Bag Series ( Single Object by Subject, Single Object by Color, Multiple Objects by Subject, and, Multiple Objects by Color ) Here, trompe l' oeil reduces the individual objects to mostly empty signs by backgrounding the symbolic message (connoted image) and highlighting the non coded, literal message (denoted image). Composition of the objects within their respective series also helped to quiet the multiple connoted meanings. Like Barthes, I do not believe connotations can fully be removed from an image but my intention with these three works was to foreground the literal message to say something unrelated to the symbolic message. The T Series (Fig. 32 ) may be the best illustration of these intentions. Shirt (Fig. 33 ) is a T shirt, Bag (Fig. 34 ) is a tea bag, and Golf (F ig. 35 ) is a golf tee. The symbolic message of this composition of three objects is extremely limited; the only relationship between them is their mutual existence as readily available, mass produced goods. The relationship between their individual symboli c meanings is quite useless and equally ridiculous A white t shirt may be considered a masculine article of clothing, a tea bag traditionally contains dried tea leaves, a substance with a long, incident riddled history dating back to the Bronze Age, and a golf tee is a stand that supports a stationary ball in a game sometimes associated with exclusive country clubs and white collar workers.
28 So, the next logical step would be to look for a relationship outside of the symbolic message. Barthes calls the mom ent at which we comprehend shapes, color, and form as what it is, e.g. the point at which we see more than the shapes and color s in the folds of fabric and instead see a t shirt, the "first degree of intelligibility My goal was to create works that remai ned closer to this first degree and refused to progress further. Trompe l'oeil, as a tool, was chosen to facilitate this response because it reduces a three dimensional object into a partially blank sign without synta x, a flat plane of information. In the T Series, this information is the phonetic relationship between three otherwise unrelated objects. During that first degree of intelligibility at which point the viewer says T, tea, or tee, there exists a simple moment of pure understanding. A similar mome nt can be found in the Circle Series (Fig. 36 ) but this moment does not even progress to the connect ion of formal properties to their sign Plate (Fig. 37 ) Blade (Fig. 38 ) and Stump (Fig. 3 9 ) have been grouped together because they relatively resemble c ircles and that is all. In the Bag Series, I created four groups of five p lastic bags filled with objects collected under different organizational principles My intention with t he Bag Series was to move one step beyond the fir st degree of intelligibility but still maintain a significant distance from the symbolic messages of the objects used in the twenty separate compositions. Here the focus is on the systems of organization and the limitless substitution and play implied by the multiple sets or series on display. Trompe l'oeil, again used as a platform or tool, renders each bag one whole object. Unlike the previous series, which consisted of absolute
29 trompe l'oeil objects in the sense that they were one singular object contained by the edges of the obje ct, this group of work presents multiple objects within a container, whose perimeter mark s the edge of frame. This effect helps separate the multiplicity of objects from their individual iconography or connotations and reduce them to the single system of t he bag. The subject is not the group of trinkets but the predetermined organization a l principles of the collection. Any given collection is made up of a succession of terms set by the collector In Single Object by Color (Fig 40 ) I collected buttons base d on their color and organized them in individual bags (Fig. 41 ) The amount of buttons in each bag varies, as do their size and shape. I repeated this process in Multiple Objects by Color (Fig. 42 ) and collected random objects based on their relative colo r. I took a similar approach with Single Object by Subject (Fig. 43 ) and Multiple Objects by Subject (Fig. 44 ) The former consists of stamps collected based on the subject matter they depict, e.g an entire bag filled with flag stamps, and the latter cons ists of random objects collected by a singular subject or idea e.g an entire bag filled with transparent items, another filled wit h different kinds of sediment (Fig. 45 ) Although each individual piece explores a unique theme or issue, they all use trom pe l'oeil as a way to filter excessive symbolic content and steer the viewer towards a reading that goes beyond the figurative or literal. Instead this body of work foreground s the unusual viewer object rela tionship created by trompe l'oeil translation, w hich focuses on the sensation of dj vu caused by the
30 presence of the reproduction and the sense of losing hold on the real by the very closeness to reality.
31 CONCLUSION Over the centuries, trompe l'oeil has developed into a working method that goes b eyond "fooling the eye." Because trompe l'oeil lacks narrative, human influence, any potential energy or action, and pictorial depth, it resists interpretation in a symbolic or iconographic mode. Therefore, works executed in strict trompe l'oeil, fully adh ering to the above listed characteristics, must be read within a theoretical or metaphysical paradigm. Issues surrounding reproduction, perspective, perception, and the principles of reality form the basis of looking at trompe l'oeil works not as meaningfu l still life but as individual conceptual explorations. Although this thesis developed into two distinct categories of work, the first taking an introspective look at the principles of trompe l'oeil and the second using trompe l'oeil as a platform to fore ground issues such as phonetics or semiotics, the overall collection of objects uses trompe l'oeil as a way to guide the viewer towards a reading that is neither figurative nor literal, but instead is another installment in an already long conversation sur rounding the nature of representation.
32 BIBLIOGRAPHY Ansenk, Emily. "The Thing Itself," http://www.renewirths.de/pdf/Emily%20Ansenk_engl.pdf, 2011. Auping, Michael. Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth 110. Fort Worth, Texas: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth 2002. Barthes, Roland, "The Rhetoric of the Image," in The Visual Culture Reader ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff London: Routledge, 2013. Battersby, Martin. Trompe L'il =: The Eye Deceived. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974. Jean Baudrillard, "The Tromp e L'oeil," in Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France ed. Norman Bryson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Bryson, Norman Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting. London: Reaktion, 1990. Ebert Schifferer, S Still Life: A History. New York: Abrams, 1999. Elsner, John, and Roger Cardinal. The Cultures of Collecting Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1994. Gilson, Etienne Painting and Reality New York: Pantheon Books, 1957. Grootenboer, Hanne ke. The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in Seventeenth Century Dutch Still Life Painting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. Marin, Louis. On Representation Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2001. Mastai, Marie Lo uise O. Illusion in Art: Trompe L'oeil : a History of Pictorial Illusionism. New York: Abaris Books, 1975. Nelson, Robert S, and Richard Shiff. Critical Terms for Art History Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Julia Trolp, "Seeing Things Cl early" http://www.renewirths.de/Julia%20Trolp Seeing%20Things%20Clearly.pdf, 2006.
33 IMAGES Figure 1. Signed Herakleitos, The Unswept Room 2 nd century CE. Floor mosaic fragment (detail). Rome, Musei Vaticani.
34 Figure 2. Pozzo, Andrea. The Apotheos is of St. Ignatius, 1691 94. Rome, S. Ignacio. Figure 3. Van Hoogstaten. Samuel, Still Life with Wall Rack c.1960. Oil on canvas, 24 x 31 in. Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle.
35 Figure 4. Gysbrechts, Cornelius. Reverse Side of a Pai nting, c. 1670. Oil on canvas, 26 x 24 in.
36 Figure 5. Harnett, William Michael. The Old Cupboard Door 1889. Oil on canvas, 61 x 40 in. Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, England.
37 Figure 6. Haberle, John. The Slate (Leave your Order Here) c.1895. Oil on canvas, 12 x 9 in. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Henry H. and Zoe Oliver Sherman Fund.
38 Figure 7. Haberle, John. Torn in Transit c. 1890 98. Oil on canvas, 13 x 17 in. Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Brandywine River Museum, Gift of Am anda K. Berls. Figure 8. Johns, Jasper. Flag, 1954 55. 42 # x 60 5/8 in. New York, Museum of Modern Art.
3 9 Figure 9. Johns, Jasper. Painted Bronze 1960. Oil on bronze, 4 x 2 11/16 in diameter Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Ludwig Donation. Figure 10 Celmins, Vija. To Fix the Image to Memory, 1977 82. Stones and painted bronze, eleven pairs, overall dimensions variable. NewYork, Museum of Modern Art.
40 Figure 11. Celmins, Vija. Bikini, 1968. Graphite on acrylic ground on paper, 13 3/8 x 18 # in. Ne w York, Museum of Modern Art. Figure 12. Celmins, Vija. Hiroshima, 1968. Graphite on acrylic ground on paper, 13 3/8 x 18 # in. Collection of Leta and Mel Ramos.
41 Figure 13. Celmins, Vija. Clipping with Pistol, 1968. Graphite on acrylic gro und on paper, 13 3/8 x 18 # in. New York, Museum of Modern Art.
42 Figure 14. Celmins Vija. Table with Tablets, 2008 10. Table: wood and acrylic, 6 found tablets, 1 made tablet: wood acrylic, alkyd oil, and pastel, 33 x 18 # x 14 in. New York, McKee Gallery.
43 Figure 15. Wirths, Rene. Brille 2012. Oil on canvas, 23 x 55 in. Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas. Figure 16. Wirths, Rene. Kasette 2012. Oil on canvas, 27 x 43 in. Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas.
44 Figure 17 Hayes, Kirk. Kirk's Chair Dance 2010. Oil on panel, 40 x 30 in. New York, Horton Gallery.
45 Figure 18. Hayes, Kirk. Happy Worms, 2010. Oil on panel, 35 x 31 in. New York, Horton Gallery
46 Figure 19 Hayes, Kirk. Weary Warrior 2012. Oi l on panel, 37 x 32 in New York, Horton Gallery.
47 Figure 20 Martin, Emily. Drywall, 2012. Oil on drywall, 27 x 25 in.
48 Figure 21 Martin, Emily. Wooden Boxes (installation view) 2012. Oil on steel and wood, 12 x 12 x12 in
49 Figu re 22 Martin, Emily. Wooden Squares, 2012. Oil on wood, 20 x 20 in.
50 Figure 23 Martin, Emily. Painted Plywood, 2012. Oil on drywall 36 x 24 in.
51 Figure 24 Martin, Emily. Brick 2012. Oil on wood 7 x 1 x 3 in
52 Figure 25 Martin, Emily. Rebar 2012. Oil on wood 17 x in diameter
53 Figure 26 Martin, Emily. PVC 2012. Oil on wood 17 x 1 in diameter
54 Figure 27 Martin, Emily. Construction Series Installation, 2012.
55 Figure 28 Mart in, Emily. Childhood Series Installation, 2012.
56 Figure 29 Martin, Emily. Still Life, 2012. Oil on panel 6 x 4 in.
57 Figure 30 Martin, Emily. Home, 2012 Oil on panel 12 x 9 in.
58 Figure 31 Martin, Emily. Alphabet, 2012 Oil on pane l 12 x 9 in.
59 Figure 32 Martin, Emily. T Series Installation, 2013.
60 Figure 33 Martin, Emily. Shirt, 2013. Oil on panel 25 x 27 in.
61 Figure 34 Martin, Emily. Bag, 2013. Oil on panel 2 x 1 in. Figure 35 Martin, Emily. Golf, 201 3. Oil on panel 1 x in.
62 Figure 36. Martin, Emily. Circle Series Installation, 2013. Figure 37 Martin, Emily. Plate, 2013. Oil on panel 12 in diam e ter
63 Figure 38 Martin, Emily. Blade, 2013. Oil on panel, 11 in diameter Figure 39 Martin, Emi ly. Stump, 2013. Oil on panel 10 in diameter
64 Figure 40 Martin, Emily. Single Object by Color, 2013. Oil on panel 6 x 3 in.
65 Figure 41 Martin, Emily. Red Buttons, 2013. Oil on panel 6 x 3 in.
66 Figure 42 Martin, Emily. Multipl e Objects by Color, 2013. Oil on panel 6 x 3 in.
67 Figure 43 Martin, Emily. Single Object by Subject, 2013. Oil on panel 6 x 3 in.
68 Figure 44 Martin, Emily. Multiple Objects by Subject, 2013. Oil on panel 6 x 3 in.
69 Figur e 45 Martin, Emily. Dirt 2013. Oil on panel 6 x 3 in.