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Let This Room-Sized Optical Illusion Swallow You Whole

Using World War I-era dazzle painting, Japanese artist Shigeki Matsuyama turns a room into mind-bending visual experience.

Back in World War I, the British military experimented with “razzle dazzle,” the painting of ships with elaborate geometric patterns to confuse the enemy’s sense of distance. Though the effectiveness of these “dazzle ships” was mixed, the camouflage technique has influenced artists, including Adam Harvey's CV Dazzle makeup, designed to thwart facial recognition technology.

Dazzle painting is the focus of a new installation by Japanese artist Shigeki Matsuyama, who decks out a room in the black-and-white patterns in his new exhibition Narcissism: Dazzle Room. In addition to walls painted in dazzle, Matsuyama places similarly patterned sculptural elements in the room, including pillows and a gigantic dazzle figure. But Matsuyama takes the technique one step further by painting a women in dazzle, creating a space that is one big psychedelic optical illusion.

“I focused on tricking the viewer’s eye,” Matsuyama tells The Creators Project. “For example, mirrors were placed at the bottom of the walls to make the line between the wall and floor hard to distinguish, and the dazzle camouflage was painted in radiating patterns to make the point of contact between the walls (the corners of the room) difficult to see.”

“As a result, depth perception, which normally occurs instantaneously, is delayed,” he adds, “and I believe the resulting discomfort connects to the concept behind the work.”

Matsuyama made the sculpture using fiber-reinforced plastic. Under his direction, two modelers created the prototype with styrofoam and clay.

“The camouflage pattern was painted directly on the head and limbs using acrylic paint,” Matsuyama says. “For the clothing and floor, I painted 2m x 7m plywood boards with acrylic paint, photographed them, and after editing the images digitally, printed them onto cloth or vinyl flooring. As for the costume, a friend of mine who is a fashion designer created it based on my design.”

The inclusion of a dazzle-painted woman, who is visually identical to the large sculpture, lends the exhibition a surreal air. This size disparity gives the exhibition a vibe similar to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, making Matsuyama’s all the more optically stunning.

Narcissism: Dazzle Room recently appeared at rooms33 fashion and design exhibition in Tokyo.

Click here to see more of Shigeki Matsuyama’s work.

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