3D Pavement Art and Trick Art
Although optical illusions have a long history in visual art, two contemporary art forms have become global phenomena within the last three decades. “Three-Dimensional Pavement Art” in the western world and “Trick Art” in Asia were both invented at the same time and have grown at astounding rates. The art forms may eventually merge into a single interactive venue, delighting and challenging a vast multicultural public.
In 1982 Kurt Wenner combined traditional street painting techniques with his classical training and understanding of illusion to invent an art form all his own. This has come to be known as anamorphic, illusionistic, or 3D pavement art. Many incorrectly believe that the geometry Wenner employs existed historically, however this is simply not true. Wenner’s geometry was inspired by the great Roman baroque ceilings of the 17th century, but he had to work out how such an idea could be applied to a surface close to the viewer that was seen at an oblique angle. By 1986, Wenner had created a number of signature 3D images such as Muses and Dies Irae. The widespread use by the media of these images popularized the art form and inspired many other artists to take it up. Today all artists creating 3D pavement artworks can trace its origins back to Wenner’s invention. By 1985, National Geographic documented his unique and innovative works of art in their award- winning film Masterpieces in Chalk.
From 1985 to the present day, Wenner has brought 3D Pavement Art illusions around the globe, participating in many Asian events. In 1998, one of Wenner’s most unusual commissions, a permanent anamorphic (or illusion) room was painted floor to ceiling, and allowed passersby to become part of the scenography. Wenner designed a special viewing lens, which measures more than two feet in diameter and was produced by the same company that ground the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. In 2007, Wenner’s two paintings The Triumph of Puck and Ceres’ Banquet were created for the Huis Ten Bosch theme park for its Autumn Celebration. The paintings were specially photographed and then projected onto the walls of buildings during their Winter Festival. During the next decades, Wenner also created a number of other pavement art illusions in China, Taiwan, and Indonesia. In 2010, over 250,000 people viewed one of his images over a five day period in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Over the years Wenner has been challenged to find a solution to create artworks that allow the public to walk on them. He has utilized invention and technology to finding a way to incorporate the best of digital imaging into his work. He still creates all his artwork by hand, but thanks to digital technology he can now produce images that are suitable for permanent and interactive displays.
Wenner’s designs can therefore now also be used for illusion museums and galleries.
In 1984, Kazumune Kenju, a retired bank employee with no formal training started making illusionistic wall painting, which he called “Trick Art”. His early works were reproductions of famous Renaissance works and trompe l’oeil paintings. At first he used only cast shadows to create his illusions, but later began to incorporate perspective geometry. Like pavement artists, Kenju believed that visitors should be given an opportunity to see how painters create their works. He considered it a way to get useful feedback on how to improve or innovate his art. Following his wish, Nasu Trickart Pia made a studio for painting that was open to the public. Kazumune Kenju also devised a communal production system modeled on the studios of the Renaissance, and thereby churned out an impressive volume of work. Motifs were dominated by well-known European paintings, but Kenju’s production method was unique. To begin with, he used industrial oil-based paint instead of artist’s oil paint. He also blended a mere five colors and a single flat-bristle brush to produce massive murals with all their color variations. He preferred commercial paint because marks from visitors could be washed off easily.
In 1987 his SD (Space Design) Corporation was founded. He then started a “parody series” of famous paintings in 1988, which became a staple of Trick Art museums throughout Asia. In 1990 the first Trick Art Museum of Only Walls was opened. As head of the studio he’d founded, SD, Kenju went on to open one trick art museum after another through the 1990s, until he died accidentally in 1997 while working on an enormous project to reproduce the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel in 3/5 scale. Working on the ceiling alone one night, he fell and was apparently found on the floor the next morning, but the Sistina – or rather Nastina – went on to glorious completion, and today is the most popular attraction at what is now known as Michelangelo’s Pavilion. The current president is Kazumune Kenju’s younger brother, Hiroshi Shimizu, who has been his greatest supporter from the beginning of his career. Other Trick Art museums were opened in Japan in the next decades as the art form became more popular. The term, “Trick Art” is claimed as proprietary by the SD Corporation.
Both Trick Art and 3D Pavement Art have become increasingly successful over the last decades. This is especially due to the Internet and social media. The art forms have in common the fact that they are interactive and incorporate the public into the imagery. To date, large museums have been opened in Japan, Korea, Singapore, Turkey and the Philippines. Most museums employ teams of painters rather than reflecting the work of a single artist. The museum venue is a particularly interesting development for 3D pavement artists, as it provides a stable and lasting venue for the popular illusions, which have already proven themselves in many indoor and lasting applications.