Bioptical Art - Preliminary Explanations

Bioptical Art - Liviu Iliescu

"Bioptical art" is the most appropriate designation, in my opinion, for a new field of art based on special techniques meant to amplify perception in painting and sculpture. I have chosen it, following a long series of experiments.

Even though the main subject of a composition is created as inspiration rules the artist, certain portions of the picture include elements meant for each eye separately. These distinct stimuli result in psychophysical effects with original artistic potentialities, when one eye looks through a pair of mirrors (called bioptical device), while the other remains naked.

My technique carries on experiments and tests undertaken at the end of the 19th century by Hermann von Helmholtz, the great scientist. His research-work consisted in the systematical analysis of different stimuli for each eye, using simple test-cards, but it was not connected to art.

The novelty of my studies consists in applying these test-cards, as well as others created by me, to painting and sculpture. I aimed at increasing the possible communication by affective pathways, at exerting a psychic influence by compositional ideas, at possibly creating new psychic structures.

The result was a new field in visual arts, which I present by means of test-cards and details of some bioptical pictures painted by me and by explaining the reproducible effects, which may be followed by the great majority of the readership. In addition to the description of these effects, I discuss several themes with metaphorical designations, trying to suggest some research trends.

I have chosen the name "bioptical" art and not "dioptical" or "binoptical", because compositions involve elements which unleash deeper psychical processes. Thus, for instance, the perception of a movement in the presence of static stimuli should be described by a title which is not connected to prevailingly physical aspects. To make descriptions as clear as possible, I had to define typical reproducible effects, such as:

antispace, bispace, hiatus and hyperspace in art, dynamics of space depth, hyperrealistic effects, psychic cycle, psycho- physical mixture of colours, retinal "cooperation", space and time in bioptical art, spatial harmony, spatial disharmony, visual gradient, etc.

In the sixties and seventies, Salvador Dali painted several pairs of pictures. Each pair actually was a stereopair. Looked at by means of an optical system devised by Daliís coworker, physicist Roger de Montebello, there occur naturalistic stereoscopic effects. This modality represents the transposition in painting of the well-known stereoscope with photographs. Artistic gains are certainly due to the creativity of the great Spanish artist. However, the multitude of bioptical phenomena are not present here.

I refer to the "Dali moment" because I wish to point out that I am aware of his technique, in all its physical details. My publications reveal a concern for extending bioptical modalities including stereoscopy with abstract forms prior to and sometimes at the same time as the great Spanish painter. As a matter of fact he confined himself to naturalistic stereoscopic representations. In this connection, I pointed out as early as 1975:

Helped by my experience as a builder of optical devices, I have succeeded in applying to painting some studies of my own on space and colour perception by means of optical systems. The subjective reproduction of space by drawing, using calculations and geometrical constructions, has been known for long. Its application to fine arts, recently achieved by painter Salvador Dali, requires, however, supplementary research. I donít know details about his achievement. As for me, I have succeeded in establishing methods for the rendering of the third dimension, which require no greater exertion from an artist than the effort made for reproducing perspective in drawing and painting. I have set up rules for the achievement of maximum depth, avoiding double images, in order to obtain a so-called "harmony of space rendering". I have also worked out simple procedures for getting details at the desired subjective distance. There occurred possibilities to merge colours by a psychophysiological effect, as each corresponding stereoscopic component was coloured in different hues. Structures were also placed in such a way that stereopairs could form an artistic whole with implications similar to those of usual painting. An effect worth mentioning is the amazing increase of colour brightness, connected to the possible placement in virtual spaces of reflexion images, formed at the surface of objects. Abstract themes, abstract representations, irrespective of their form, are accepted by the recognition of their spatial existence. Instead of canvas or cardboard, there appears a space of art, in the perception of the depth of space defined by the forms floating in it.1

Salvador Daliís naturalistic stereoscopic paintings2 Reproductions of these compositions with some comments are present in the album published by the Prado Museum: 400 Obras de 1914-1983 Salvador Dali Museo Español de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid beside his exceptional talent do not involve any of the phenomena resulting from my bioptical experiments. His technique, in this connection, is commonplace. Moreover, the methods used by me, which are described in this book, could be also extended to sculptures, forms in space. These possibilities have not been mentioned by speciality literature, not even as hints.

The present work sums up the results of investigations carried out by me during half a century. Some of them have already been published in journals, others appear for the first time in this book. The text of those already printed has been maintained unchanged, as it preserves the rhythm of the experiments.

The description of some experiments is repeated in various parts of the book, in different contexts. Bioptical effects are pointed out as much as possible.

Some conclusions drawn from bioptical experiments have been also applied to physiognomy studies and to a possible materialization of Brancusiís sketch Relativement tel que moi.

Before reading the book, it is advisable to peruse the test-cards in the chapter Training of bioptical vision.. These tests are meant for everybody, including pupils and third-age persons.

Some parts which I thought to be more representative are translated into English. An English abstract is also placed at the end of some chapters.


1 Liviu Iliescu, Letter, in Saptamana nr.237, of June 20, 1975, p.7. The letter referred to the news published in the Romanian press, that Salvador Dali paints stereoscopic pictures.

2 Reproductions of these compositions with some comments are present in the album published by the Prado Museum: 400 Obras de 1914-1983, Salvador Dali Museo espanol de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid.