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"optical illusion" Tag

Color Opposition

Thursday, January 24, 2013


What I understand about Ewald Hering is not a vast amount, it’s pretty narrow. I’m no Physiologist as he was but I will try to elaborate on his theory of Color Opponency, which is the idea that the receptors in our eye that make seeing colors possible are capable of taking in two colors at a time and that to each color there is a reaction. When looking at the two colors at the same time, or next to each other, it has contradictory experiences. This creates a kind of optical illusion where the colors seem to glow. Just like when you look at a black dot on a white background then look away you keep seeing the glow of the dot you stared at. This is that same glow. There are many optical illusions that use this formula.

The opposing colors he was talking about were Blue to Yellow (and vice versa), Green to Red and Black to White.
Anytime these colors are put up next to each other, without any intervening colors, it becomes difficult to look precisely at the border between them.

I understood why this combination of two opposing colors creates this illusion.
So my plan was to combine the colors and create an illusion that had its effect within the colors.
First I started with little prototypes with examples of existing optical illusions, but with the opposing colors, since I had discovered that Hering himself had created an optical illusion, namely the Hering Illusion.

Goodness gracious, is there anything Mr. Hering didn't do?

I found two other optical illusions that were of almost the same design as that of Hering’s and combined the colors with the design of the illusions.

It was too distracting, the optical illusions, so I removed these and tried a simple design; a red square within a green background and the opposite of that; a red background with a green square in the middle.
It felt more honest to the colors, rather than taking something that was already meant as an optical illusion and decorating it, so to say.

I liked the prototypes but they were, after all, prototypes.
So I set off to make three big paintings with a color combination of two each just like the ones I had made before.
The optical illusion worked, halfway through the second one, blue and yellow, I had to wear my sunglasses because I started to get a massive headache.

It was funny how the color scheme, blue & yellow, green & blue and white & black are usually set up together. I finally understood why; it was this subliminal optic effect which makes you either love it or hate it.

Not only that, this might be the very reason some people hate Christmas. Eureka!

I had to pat myself on the back for that one.

What I’m interested in researching further after this project is to see which secondary colors have this same effect with each other.
However I don’t want to limit my research to painting, I want to check if the same rule applies with objects in backgrounds with opposing colors.
I’ll try this with myself wearing a red t-shirt and standing in front of a green wall. The opposite as well, green shirt to a red wall. This I’ll do with all the color combinations and if my calculations are correct I should be able to blind you when you see me.

I started noticing that this same optical illusion not only works with these colors, but that it happens with other ones as well. Colors like purple in combination to green, for example, has a similar effect. However I don’t have the specific formulas to the secondary colors, so I won’t elaborate.

As an ending to the Ewald Hering project we silk screened one color each in reflection to our color theory. I chose the brightest neon pink I could find

(Thank God for Magenta, am I right?)


Herman Ebbinghaus, Deconstructing the Phenomenon

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Herman Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) was a German psychologist, who pioneered the experimental study of memory, was the first one to talk about the learning cube and is known for his discovery of the forgetting curve and spacing effect. He has also discovered a color system, based on a double pyramid colored Red Blue Green and Red after Leonardo da Vinci’s idea. The idea was that due to the variation of brightness, those four colors can be separately distinguished. He strongly believed that being aware of the physiologists discovery,  in the eyes retina there are only three photo-sensitive substances who are responsible for the phenomenon of colored vision and its anomalies. He published in 1893 in the Journal of Psychology in Germany, a “Theory of Colour Vision” – in which he mentioned that humans perceive colors through higher mental processes. He had then discovered that if one of the combinations of pyramids, red and green or yellow and blue have a common base in a three dimensional space and that base spins (as seen in the image), two white hues are produced and the brightness is linked to the speed of the spin. It is a purely phenomenologically oriented portrayal of colors in which the complementary pair does not find a place opposite one another. The double-pyramid has then came to be a stronghold of phenomenology, an era in which colors were simple came to a close. After Ebbinghaus discoveries physics could never be certain again about the nature of light and it’s wave and particles properties that have also been discovered at the same time by Albert Einstein.    

The Machine

It really got me by surprise me that i couldn’t find any other source or any other image besides one website. All about this color system is theoretical, it hasn’t been applied into action. So i was curious to see this phenomenon happening. My first attempt was to create a physical machine with two rotated round edge squares, one would fit into the other and with the help of two air blowers, it would turn.The machine didn’t have much success as i realized immediately, it was an interesting shape but the squares didn’t turn fast enough therefore the phenomenon couldn’t appear. After creating the machine i wondered whether a digital form could be more efficient.


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