Why Trompe l’Oeil? The art of deception across the boundaries of time and space

Stacey Pierson, SOAS University of London, sp17@soas.ac.uk

Chih-En Chen, SOAS University of London, c_chen@soas.ac.uk

Trompe l’oeil, meaning ‘deceiving the eye’, describes works of art and objects with illusionistically beguiling surfaces and forms. Production of such works can now be identified as a global historical phenomenon, with a broad array of examples ranging from the familiar Palissy wares, to Edward Collier’s painting of writing implements, to Chinese jade cabbages that have been challenging the material experience of visuality and countervisuality for hundreds of years. However, despite its long history of production, the ontology of trompe l’oeil artistic production and the reasons behind this illusory invention remain unexplored. Engaging with the concept of trompe l’oeil in expanded art-historical and visual fields of inquiry, across time and space, would allow us to probe the evolution of the pursuit of deceptive visual representation and the consumption of deceitful things in relation to both heuristic and contextual frames such as politics, religion, society and the economics of production.

Accordingly, ‘Why trompe l’oeil?’ will be the fundamental question addressed in this session. Papers might explore how different types of global trompe l’oeil art production have shaped the ways in which such art is produced, dispersed, consumed and conceptualised. Moreover, other artificial approaches to representing reality that developed alongside the concept of trompe l’oeil, such as Skeuomorphism, Cubism, Indeterminism and Naturalism, might also be considered. The primary aim of the session is to expose the rationale and motivation for trompe l’oeil art production by considering its different forms from a trans-historical and trans-spatial perspective and we invite papers that explore this through a range of different perspectives and methodological approaches.


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