The Daily Heller: Illusions From a Visual Magician

Posted inThe Daily Heller

What you see is never what you really see. It is neither real nor surreal, it is art—the result of precision drafting and intricate mathematical logic. Hungarian illustrator, animated film director and poster artist István Orosz basks in the mystique of his ambitious visual contortions, implausible objects and incredible optical illusions. He is a visual punster on the highest plane who is happiest when making confounding images and anamorphoses relying on forced perspective that echo, not coincidentally, his famous mathematics teacher (and inventor of the Rubik’s cube) Ernő Rubif.

Here we discuss his visual magic and why one perspective is never enough in the multidimensional world.

You have created an impressive body of posters that employ optical curiosities and illusions in a surreal manner. What has been your motivation or inspiration?
Yes, I enjoy experimenting with illusions, not only on my autonomous graphic sheets, but also on my posters. Perhaps this is connected to the fact that the world in which I grew up lived under the banner of a grandiose lie. I thought that if I introduced the viewers of my works to illusions in a playful or, if you will, laboratory setting, they would not be surprised later by the deception experienced in the real world.

Your work, last shown in Budapest, comes from many years of interest in geometric contortions that are associated with M.C. Escher. What is the message you are communicating? Is this a formal investigation or something more social and political?
I was interested in geometric distortions and playing with perspective already when I was a student. Perhaps you have heard of one of my geometry teachers—Ernő Rubif, who invented the Rubik’s cube. But I can also mention another Hungarian mathematician, the developer of non-Euclidean geometry, János Bolyai, who lived in the 19th century. Their influence also contributed to my falling in love with anamorphoses, spatial irregularities, journeys between dimensions and, of course, the strange world that is most often mentioned together with the name of the Dutch M.C. Escher.

What do you feel your contribution has been to expanding this magical language?
Perhaps I would highlight the relationship between images with double meanings and anamorphoses. I have dealt a lot with anamorphoses, those distorted images that are meaningless in themselves, and they only make sense with the help of a mirror. I tried to make anamorphoses with double meaning, which are meaningful images in themselves, but in the mirror placed on them, they also get another meaning, completely independent of the previous one. They are in quasi-dialogue with themselves and, what is more: They contradict themselves.

There is a quality of disorientation in your illusions. What do you want your viewers to feel when they look at these intricate concoctions?
There is also a selfish aspect to this. I would like the viewer to look at my work for more than just a single moment. To work on it a little longer. I think of the viewer as a co-creator (in the sense that Duchamp also thought of the viewer as a co-creator), and I want to give him a task. For example, I want them to notice that some of my posters mean something different when viewed up close and when viewed from a distance. For this, the viewer has to walk and look for the right point of view, so he also works.

Where are you taking this obsession next? Where do you want your imagination to take you?
With so much math and geometry, it might seem like I’m a conscious artist. Oh no, this is not true. There are also many instinctive, unpredictable directions in what I do. What will be the next step? I would also like to be surprised by that.