Project 2 – The Improbability of Vision

Initial ideas

Our project brief was, in simple words, to create/recreate an optical illusion. I had many ideas spawned from scrolling through Pinterest. One idea was having multiple glass layers with parts of an image on each layer to altogether reveal a whole image when lined up. Another idea was to have multiple hanging pieces of items to reveal an image through its shadow when a light was shone from the top. The next idea was something I came up with – a few clock hands propped up by stands and lined up with parts of an image attached to each of the clock hands. These hands would reveal an image at a split second when the images are all combined together and as the hands tick on, the image would be mixed up again.

However, the clock idea did not seem optical illusion-y enough for me, so I went back online to look for inspiration.

I chanced upon Matthieu Robert-Ortis’ wire sculpture where the viewer would see 2 giraffes from one angle and an elephant from another angle. It looked really difficult to do and I wanted to challenge myself, so I decided to go with this.

However, I did not want to use the same images of the animals as it seemed somewhat arbitrary. I came across some blind contour images on Pinterest and was inspired to do faces instead. On one side, there would be three different faces with different expressions and on the other side, it would be a single face. This was to convey the multi-faceted nature of humans despite the main image of ourselves that we try to portray. Upon consultation with Peter, he suggested making the main face a portrait of an actual person to give it more meaning.

Thinking about the message I wanted to convey and who fit this concept the most, I thought of my mother. As children, we tend to have a lot of preconceived notions of how our mothers are supposed to be, but we forget that they are just as human as we are and just as susceptible to bouts of depression, exhaustion, and escapism.

For the drawing style, I decided to go with blind contour as it was more forgiving in terms of the wire form. Sticking to a clean-cut, normal drawing style would make the styling of the wires much more complicated.

Planning sketches

As for the main singular portrait, I decided to trace my mother’s profile photo as a representation of the image she portrays of herself to the world. The main characteristics were the short hair and glasses.

Sketches – the one on top is the main portrait of my mother

For the three faces on the side, the different expressions I chose were sadness (a face with a tear running down the cheek), escapism (the face turned away at an angle), and exhaustion (the middle face with eyes closed).

First prototype – miniscule version

To test if the wires I was using were thick enough to hold its shape but thin enough to still be malleable, I made a small version of two faces. I concluded that the size I made it at was too small to be impactful and that a larger size would also be easier to manipulate.

Larger version – one face

I proceeded to try making one with a larger face.

Larger version – 2 faces

I finished the first face and attached a second face to it that was made with a separate wire. I attached them by hooking the ends. This seemed fine but unstable, so I thought it was better to just use one continuous wire to form the whole thing.

First version – spray painted black

As the final version was going to be black in colour against a white background, I decided to test the spray paint on my first prototype to see if the paint would affect the metal in any way. It turned out fine, as seen in the photo. In fact, it made the image clearer as there was no reflection like when it was silver.

More sketches

Throughout the sculpting process, I kept testing paths for the wire I could take by drawing them out since it was a single continuous line. This meant that I could not make any major mistakes as I would not be able to fix them easily – I would have to unravel the whole wire and that would cause the lines to be less straight

Main portrait WIP

As I created the three faces in front, I had to figure out how to make the main portrait on the side at the same time. It was rather complicated which is why I drew out the lines on paper first to see which would work.


When the whole wireframe was done, I spray painted it black and began to set up. I planned for it to be a hanging sculpture as the wires could not support themselves from the bottom.

I used a white board for the top and hung the sculpture using thin white threads that were less conspicuous.

Set-up from another angle

It was really difficult as the wires kept twisting and turning and I had to keep readjusting the placement of the threads to ensure both sides were clear.

Final Image Side 1 – Main portrait
Final image 2nd Side – 3 faces

The lines are definitely not as clean as I expected and hoped, but the images were somewhat visible from both sides.  Also, if the backing and ceiling were more spacious, I would be able to show the images in its entirety – part of the reason I could not achieve what I wanted is that the wire did not have enough space to freely hang. Overall I learned that wires are more complicated to maneuver than one can anticipate and it required more time than I expected to be able to complete it.

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