Mind and body: The problem with perspective systems

The physicality of perspective systems

Just now I was reading a paper about the perspective systems in Ancient Chinese painting. At some point I thought that maybe this obsession we have towards creating a sophisticated system that could act as an objective recipient for the depiction of reality has a lot to do with how we interact with the physical world. I mean, both Euclidean and not Euclidean geometry have proven to be useful for the making of blueprints and even build or change the physical world, so why not try to keep using them in order to depict our experience of reality?

This is an Idea that has been around for thousands of years but history has shown that Artists, specially painters have always challenged it’s rules, and I think this has to do with the fact that in order to depict reality, we have to experience it and we do this with both our physical body and our minds. So, a system that favours our physical body over our minds is not efficient.

The convenience of the Flat canvas


From the readings I made for my research paper, I now know that linear perspective was born as an objective system to depict reality on flat surfaces, according to history this started with mirrors and was reinforced by architecture and it is obvious that flat paintings fit easily on flat walls, of course there are examples of images that do not follow this rule, in some cases, architecture is setting the path and in others, images follow the functional or symbolic uses of the object.

When you think about canvases, sketchbooks, prints and photographs it is easy to think about the convenience of the flat image, it makes easy to present it, to store it and reproduce it, so it seems that this feature of the image prevails over the content of it. It is a condition that seems almost fundamental about image creation… but is it? or better yet, should it be?

What about painting? From my experience, is really confortable to paint over a flat canvas instead of doing it over a non-flat one, but the same true for medium size canvases if compared to big or really small ones, and that is not enough reason to prefer medium size canvases. Further more, although physical comfort might be a desirable thing to have when painting, it is not always the same for mental comfort.

Convenient entrapment

So apparently, the use of both perspective systems (specially linear) and flat surfaces is convenient for practical reasons, but it does come with a price, we are trying to depict reality using tools that privilege the physical side over the mental one.