On Perspective

Written by
Inez Olszewski
Published on
August 9, 2021 at 11:14:50 AM PDT August 9, 2021 at 11:14:50 AM PDTth, August 9, 2021 at 11:14:50 AM PDT

This post was written by Inez Olszewski during her 2021 summer internship at Ronin Gallery. We would like to thank Inez for all her hard work!

“To see is to think and to think is to see. It’s a different kind of language, but that seems to be the function of art: to change meaning through perception.”

- Richard Serra, Talk With Charlie Rose, 2001

Whether the subject is a bustling cityscape, ripples in the water, or a tattoo, perception is subjective. Through the use of perspective, artists can both shape our perception and challenge our understanding of the subject. Perspective can be used as a tool to depict lifelike qualities, but it also can also invite the viewer to see familiar things in new ways. When we engage with art, thought and sight go hand in hand. The exhibition On Perspective explores the power of artistic perception. It asks: how does the way we look at a subject change our understanding of it?

Yoshihito Kawase. "Water." 2019. Nihonga. Ronin Gallery.

Through exploring how the viewer engages with the works in On Perspective we can be led to create new experiences through unique perspectives. In both "Water" by Yoshihito Kawase and "Deer Near Waterside" by Shoson our eye is drawn to the large bodies of water that fill in the space. However, the position at which we look at the water creates two different environments for the viewer. In Water we are looking at the ripples from above, and the focal point of work becomes the center of the ripple, in which both real and reflected foliage can be seen. From this angle, the subject of the work is no longer the pool of water, but the greenery that has been abstracted through refraction. The viewer stands in the middle of both worlds, in between the seen and unseen forest and leaves.

Shoson. "Deer Near Waterside." c.1913. Color woodblock print. Ronin Gallery.

In contrast, in "Deer Near Waterside" the viewer looks across the water to the two deer at their eye level rather than from above. This low angle from which the viewer looks out across to the deer evokes the sense that they have exited the human realm, as if to achieve this perspective, they became a deer themself. This full immersion into the animal realm is brought to us through Shoson's use of perspective, presenting the opportunity to become part of the environment rather than observing them from the sidelines.

Masato Sudo. "Ritsu (standing)." c.2014. Photograph. Ronin Gallery.

The diverse collection of the Ronin Gallery enables us to look at a range of prints and paintings, from traditional to contemporary, that challenge our sense of perspective. As perspective can unite us with an environment, it can also create a sense of separation. At first glance it is unclear that "Ritsu (standing)" by Masato Sudo, is a photograph of a tattooed calf. The dark background cloaks the contours of the lower leg allowing only the highlighted areas of the calf to remain visible. This detaches the audience from the subject, creating a veil of separation. Rather than allowing the viewer to be comfortably rooted in the environment - of the calf, the wearer, and the studio - Sudo challenges them to look at the tattoos in a new way.