Fine Art and Bioptical Painting

Bioptical Art - Liviu Iliescu

The bioptical picture is made up of several areas (at least two) (R2). In one of the areas, the main composition is painted following the artist’s inspiration. In other areas there will be painted elements following simple rules meant to obtain space amplification, colour fusion, dynamics of space depth a.o., so that bioptical effects should result, to meet the artist’s imagination.

A bioptical device is used, consisting of two mirrors placed periscope-like, in front of one eye. With the naked eye, the recipient- subject sees several images from one of the composition areas. With the other eye, provided with the bioptical device, images from another area are seen. The effects of a bioptical composition are created (space, form, colour, modified in time, during adaptation). The composition should be created so that it has artistical value even if it is contemplated with the naked eye. The sequence of contemplations–with and without the optical device–makes the recipient-subject feel the sensations of a psychic cycle. A psychic cycle lasts several minutes up to several tens of minutes. The contemplation of the picture is to take place in a state of relaxation, sitting in an arm-chair.

A bioptical picture is the outcome of painting on a surface several areas grouped according to optical criteria as two distinct wholes. By means of a specially designed device, either eye may look at a distinct image. Each image includes elements from compositions worked out in such a way, that, by psychophysical combining, both the image as a whole and some of its components should be perceived by the viewer.

The above definition also covers the rather commonplace method of the stereopairs. That method reproduces space either by means of photographs or by naturalistic pictures, which look like photographs (Salvador Dali).

Bioptical painting is also based on the theory of stereoscopic image formation, but our outlook is much more comprehensive since we have increased the number of differentiated stimuli for each eye. These stimuli evoke perceptions by a psychophysical mechanism, as a result of awareness of the whole as well as of some components. The same as in any process of understanding, training gives rise to increased conscious perception of the whole, as well as of the components, received by either eye in part. The daily perception of depth in the surrounding space (distances in the observation direction) by binocular vision, prevailingly structures the representations meant for spatial ensemble recognition. Information provided by a bioptical picture are received separately by each eye, so that both the whole and part of the components may be perceived.

This technique efficiently increases the amount of spatial repre- sentations. It is worthy of notice that, though the environment provides bioptical information, people are aware of them separately only to a small extent, because of the dominant perception, which gives the impression of depth (the resultant of components, namely the whole). Bioptical painting permits to control the influence of stimuli beyond the inhibition threshold of components (considered separately), resulting in the extension of psychic processes of awareness.

Ophthalmological treatments make use of apparatus which provide a different image for either eye. These images are targets which should be coordinated by the patient according to certain rules, with a view to seeing a whole or to perceiving binocular depth, in cases of vision disturbances that can be treated in this way. Bioptical painting starts from the premiss that viewers are already aware of the depths of the natural space by binocular vision and that only in this case may one discuss the extension of psychic processes of becoming aware by sight. I shall try to make a comparison with similar aspects from a contiguous domain. Listening to the cadenza of a concerto for violin and orchestra, the violin solo may be considered as a sensorial whole. When playing together with the other instruments, the violin turns into a component of a new whole. During intervals when the whole orchestra is playing, trained listeners may grasp both the orchestral ensemble and the sound of the violin, as well as the sounds of other components of the orchestra. Effects are also due to the place of the instruments in the orchestra, viz. to stereophony emphasized by sound differences of the amplitude- frequency characteristics, originating from the sensorial tracts of the left ear as compared to those of the right ear. In the above example, the relation between listener and orchestra, known by specialists in its complex forms, has been schematically presented, with a view to providing a foremodel of what bioptical painting might be.

From the experiments I have carried out so far on bioptical painting, there stand out several techniques and effects. A first attempt at grouping them results in the following:

1. Systematization of the correspondence between the elements of the painted areas, either in order to get rid of undesired double images-which occur with binocular vision in natural surroundings, achieving a so-called spatial harmony-, or to induce certain double images, obtaining disharmonies with anticipated effects.

2. Creation of spatial contrasts as against the images of the surrounding world, by greatly increasing depths. The result is an extrapolated space which may be called "hyperspace".

3. Creation of a new space by reverting the sequence of distances of the naturalistic space and of the above-defined hyperspace. This space contradicts the natural one.

In this century, one of the trends of revolution in painting has been the annihilation of naturalistic perspective. The viewer has been obliged to experience the sensations provided by painting at the level of the painted surface. This may be accounted for–among other reasons–by satiety arising from the excess of naturalistic perspective, perpetrated for centuries. Moreover, the progress in photographic technique seemed to change painting into a useless craft. The possibilities of perspective had to be reconsidered and transposed to the field of other means proper to the language of new painting or sculpture. Out of the means of painting with depths tending to annihilation, modern painting–aimed at obtaining the so-called "space-surface"–has made use both of hypercentric perspective (with vanishing points opposed to naturalistic perspective) and of reversal of the red-green-blue chromatic perspective. These means have at least succeeded in modifying naturalistic perspective, though they could not annul it (in all cases). They tend to permit the perception of desired effects for painting, also creating that space-surface (almost flat), by eliminating the satiation effects of classical space.

In bioptical painting, the artist makes use of the above-mentioned means (hypercentric perspective, reversal of the chromatic pers- pective) in his own way, in order to create a new space. The sensations of depth in this space contradict the background of representations in the genetic psychic space. The new space requires new accommo- dations and understanding and it may be called "antispace".

Another series of effects arise from the absence of perspective correlation of lines and colour patches. These are painted as different objects for either optical axis, resulting in sensorial superpositions of different objects (each eye receives information about different objects for the same perceived area). Overlappings are anticipated by the artist but they largely depend on the subject. The combining of the areas painted in this way results in the creation of a "bispace" insufficiently investigated so far. This technique is more labile and permits to amplify artistic meanings by a more complex effort of the painter.

The viewer perceives the presence of the two areas as pulsations, either simultaneously or separately. These pulsations result from the tendency of the dominating eye to enforce its information. As against facts presented above, perspective correlation of the lines that frame or cross colour patches–painted in different chromatic hues (for either optical-sensorial route)–results in a psychophysical colour mixture, with surprising gains in perceiving the colour resultant. This "psycho- physical mixture" differs from the "optical mixture" of pointillism, where the resultant occurs on the retina. The dots (relatively small patches) are seen as reduced images depending on the distance at which they are seen. In pointillism, the size of "dots-images" approaches that of visual sensors (expressed in visual acuity). The resulting "optical mixture" may be controlled with difficulty, because of the perturbations due to the interstitial background. If the dot-background colour pair is used, there occur difficulties in obtaining the desired chromatic resultant, also accounted for by the fact that if "spots-dots" are larger than the retina sensors, there appear effects of simultaneous contrast.

In bioptical painting, information received by the left sensorial route differ from those received by the right one, so that the "colour mixture" occurs at the level of nervous centres. There results a chromatic hue oscillating among the components. This hue depends on the optical characteristics of either route, left or right, but especially on the differences of sensorial potential between them. Paint is spread on large surfaces, avoiding the well-known great exertion of pointillism. On the other hand, the effect (mixed colour) is independent of the distance of vision. The method of bioptical superposition also extends the range of colour perceptions by producing a "floating" sensation and, in certain cases, it annihilates the perception of the structure of the material background. The bioptical device (an optical appliance) is designed so as to permit the reversal of information between the two routes. Colour hues are thus modified due to the differences between the characteristics of the two sensorial routes.

An important advantage of bioptical painting is the fact that the effects described above are the outcome of comparing sensations and perceptions evoked by vision with the naked eye, with sensations and perceptions obtained when looking through the bioptical device. It is essential that compatible compositions should be created, viz. the painted surface, the picture as a whole, could and should be valuable as a conventional picture and then, by the relations between painted areas, as a bioptical picture. During the transition from vision with the naked eye to vision through the optical appliance, eye accommodation gives rise to sensations of depth modification and the viewer witnesses the transformation of the artistic space. Faster changes are perceived for the hyperspace and slower ones for the antispace. These effects, which provide the genuine sensation of space expansion, could be called "dynamics of depth". The great many endeavours of painters gave birth to a "language" formed of various styles, which might be considered "words". These may be used in bioptical art, separated from the compositions that included them, in order to avoid the accusation of mannerism or eclecticism. One can thus consider as a language element the way contrast is achieved by means of the sensation of glittering objects. In this connection, "hyperrealism" is deficient as concerns the goals of painters who devotedly serve it. One of the most powerful effects in hyperrealism is the rendering of glitters at the surface of objects or of glitters in transparent objects. In most cases such glitters do not actually occur on the reproduced surfaces or in the transparent bodies. These phenomena are known, but the use of the naturalistic perspective to set bright spots in places of greatest effect yields poor results as compared to reality and far from hyperrealistic intentions. Bioptical painting allows to place glitters in naturalistic positions with highest effect, as well as to amplify sensations when techniques are transposed in the hyperspace or in the antispace.

To conclude, the notions of hyperspace, antispace and bispace, used in this brief presentation should be considered as meaningful in their subordination to bioptical painting. They are defined starting from sensations which appear with certainty. These notions refer to some techniques of painting which, we dare think, may represent the beginning of a rich research activity on processes of space perception formation. In older age, this activity could be repeated with the benefit of valuable introspection possibilities. It is very important that this painting starts from concepts contiguous to topology and provides methods to view new space forms. A better understanding of the triplet topology-psychology-visual arts is thus made possible. With some reservations, the methods of bioptical painting may also be applied to sculpture, cinematography and television (domains where I obtained positive results) and perhaps also to holography and to virtual reality.13

As is known, modern painting has destroyed the illusion of the naturalistic perspective of space, making it compulsory to experience the labile perception-representation pairs when viewing a "surface- space" picture. This has resulted in the creation of new illusions, which led to psychological analyses. In its turn, bioptical painting creates new sets of illusions, making it possible to further extend the amount of essential accumulations from the perception-representation process. An example of bioptical painting is the tryptich-like picture (Fig. 34), made up of three areas painted one under the other (on a vertical), which should be denoted by I, II and III, starting from the upper one. The bioptical device permits the sensorial superposition of information received by the left eye on those received by the right eye, from areas I and II, as well as from areas II and III. Those areas are painted in such a manner that there result the above described effects. The bioptical device is rather simple and meets the requirements of binocular optical instruments currently used in science, technology, leisure hours, etc. It is fastened on a support (Fig. 4) and its frontal part is placed before the eyes of the viewer, at a distance of 3-5 cm. A well-known and very simple optical system was adapted, which permits to look with one naked eye while the other sees through a pair of mirrors.

The above described techniques could interest experimental psychology, yet they have been designed for existing pictorial means, as new ways of communication in art. I am pleading in support of considering the same relations between psychological investigations and artistic findings as in modern painting. I hope that the first pictures already prepared should satisfy specialists’ exigency, at least till they reach the range of interest of artists.

I have already stated that bioptical pictures are meaningful also as conventional pictures (for instance as "surface-space" painting) but essential effects occur when looking through the bioptical device. The fact that a bioptical device is necessary might represent a drawback, yet man has been used to look through various appliances, in order to get out of routine. Some of these had important outcomes for science. People examine things under a microscope or look at stars through a telescope; they even peep through a keyhole (with obvious moral implications). The presence of the device may give rise to objections, yet it is like a "keyhole" in a huge locked-up door, permitting access to a world of spaces. One day this door will be wide open by means of technical procedures. This will occur in a more or less distant, yet foreseeable, future.


13 Holography and virtual reality reproduce space by stereoscopic effects, providing useful applications in science and technology. They may be applied to bioptical art (not yet experimented), if procedures of binocular differentiation are introduced in addition to retinal disparities in rendering the common space, procedures described in this book. I have experimented, however, the transposing of bioptical procedures on a computer, also introducing kinetic stimuli by shifting the composition elements in time (on a horizontal). Spatial effects were obtained, in depth, associated in certain cases also with the modification of the vanishing lines. These techniques are presented in patent RO 112061 I was granted since July 31, 1995. (Fig.40) Bioptical compositions entered on a computer allow interpretation and coopera- tion links between the transmitting artist and several observers, by introducing the program in the INTERNET. The program is worked out so that each recipient-subject may operate modifications in all elements: forms, forms alterations in time, shifts in depth at different speeds, colours of the elements or of the background and others. The results are collective creations.