With Op Art what you see isn’t what you get


The term op art (optical art) was coined by Time Magazine in 1964. Op art explores the optical effects that can be garnered from the use of geometrical shapes and various colour contrasts. Op Art at Brenda May Gallery challenges its audience and makes them question what they are seeing. Incorporating various technologies and media equipment, the 16 artists in this group exhibition delve deeply into this area of visual ambiguity.
In her painting Double-dealing untitled, 2016, Debra Dawes presents rows of black and white stripes. Each row is angled in a different direction to the last creating an overall effect that causes the eye to cross and blur. If stared at for too long, the lines appear to hover off the canvas, making the work almost 3D in appearance.

This sense of disorientation is intensified in the work of Joel Arthur. In Sinker, 2015, coloured lines are painted onto a contrasting background in multiple vertical lines. As the line progresses it begins to ebb and flow: the lines appear to move rhythmically from left to right, as if they were forming a wave of movement.

Justin Harvey, ‘Curtain’ 2016, HD video - infinite loop, edition of 6, courtesy the Artist
Justin Harvey, Curtain, 2016, HD video – infinite loop, edition of 6. Courtesy the artist.

Colour is explored extensively in the trio of paintings by John Aslanidis: Sonic subfragment no. 31, 2013, Sonic subfragment no. 27, 2013 and Sonic no. 45, 2015. His work utilises circular shapes that conceal and reveal the circle which forms the centre of the work. Hypnotised, the eye debates which shape and colour to focus on, gravitating between the foreground and the background, until ultimately, you are forced to look away.
Through the use of video, Justin Harvey creates beautiful harmonies in colour inCurtin, 2016. Lines of colour move rhythmically, like the strings of a harp, dancing together as the rainbow shifts and melds. As with other works in the exhibition, it is difficult to pull yourself away from the mesmerising, seamless movement.

Op Art is a beautiful hybrid of shapes and colour, designed to engage the senses. This exhibition serves as a reminder that what you see is not always what you get.

Op Art
Brenda May Gallery
11 June – 7 July

Preview Words by Naomi Gall