At first they appear to simply be gigantic swooping shapes painted across buildings around the world… but find the correct focal point and they pop into astounding geometric forms. Swiss artist Felice Varini has been creating these massive pieces since 1979; starting small with room based installations, but later growing to pieces that cover entire villages and require a hike up a mountain to properly appreciate. His anamorphic paintings have impressed a generation of creatives, and continue to be emulated to this day.
To create his works, Varini first stands in situ, getting accustomed to the place. Then he defines a point of view where he and later observers will interact with the space… a point of observation. Sensibly he creates this point in a place where it can be seen from eye level; and at in the opening between one room and another, or on a landing. By doing this, viewers naturally find themselves standing in the focal point and able to view the piece as a cohesive whole. For anyone who hasn’t seen one of his pieces in person, you can imagine an unexpected walk through a door, literally into his work, would be both surprising and disorienting. Varini clearly enjoys the chance surprise:
“The viewer can be present in the work, but as far as I am concerned he may go through it without noticing the painting at all. If he is aware of the work, he might observe it from the vantage point and see the complete shape. But he might look from other points of views where he will not be able to understand the painting because the shapes will be fragmented and the work too abstract. Whichever way, that is ok with me.”
To actualize his works, Varini projects his images on the surface he wants to embellish. He then traces the shapes and fills them in with colorful paint. Perhaps the largest example of his work (and an impressive projection in itself) was his project in the village of Vercorin, in the Swiss Alps. The entire classic village was covered with about two dozen metallic circles – something that must be seen in panorama on his website to appreciate. You can find a chronological catalogue of his many works at varini.org.
Above and below: “Encerclement à dix,” Centre d’Art Contemporain, Thouars, France – 1999
“Orangerie du chateau de Versailles” – 2006
“Archi e Corone” – 2003
“Cercle et suite d’éclats,” Exposition sur le village, Vercorin – 2009 (view the panorama)
“Rectangle évidé par six disques,” Vaduz – 2011
“Carré aux seize disques,” Centre national des arts plastiques – 2011
“Zigzag entre le cercle at la tour,” Niigata Water and Land Art Festival, Niigata, Japan – 2009