‘Linear perspectives appropriate the entire space into one formulation’

Some leading faces from the world of cinema, art and poetry have opined that the individual freedoms of objects are surrendered to give rise to the reality of linear perspective.

In a session titled “Linear Perspective in Painting and Cinema,” organised by the Raza Foundation’s Art Dialogues here on Tuesday evening, artist and geologist Manish Pushkale and cinematographer Piyush Shah were on the panel with poet and film-writer Udayan Vajpeyi as the moderator. Noted filmmaker Kumar Sahani was also present at the event.

Art Dialogues, a monthly series of discussion on various aspects of art, is organised by the Raza Foundation in partnership with the Civil Services Officers’ Institute.

Pushkale, whose solos include Galerie Edition Caracters, Paris (2006), explained how vanishing point is an important term in linear perspective and a key element in works of art. The artist-geologist also discussed how vanishing point is a physical property, as opposed to the emerging point, which is something that emerges within the viewer.

He urged viewers not to focus solely on the vanishing point which exists outside him. Rather, he made a case for turning the gaze to the emerging point which occurs within the viewer in response to the vanishing point.

“Linear perspective creates an optical illusion of objects converging to a fixed, single point,” Pushkale said.

He elaborated on the subject of perspectives by citing Arjuna’s response to Dronacharya, when the military arts teacher asked his ace pupil what he actually saw before aiming. “Arjuna could only see the eye of the bird. As an artist, I find the scenario very interesting. What Arjuna visualised was the bird’s eye and he used his own eyes to accomplish that,” he said. “Was the bird’s eye a vanishing point in Arjuna’s own eyes,” Pushkale.

Udayan Vajpeyi, introducing the panelists and the subject, noted that there is both the act of locking and appropriation through linear perspective in art and cinema. But there are various ways in filmmaking and painting in which unlocking is being done.

“Kumar Shahani in his film Kasba unlocks the space into floating realities through colours and movements,” he said, adding: “In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s works, there are multiple, ethical dimensions, which interact with each other.”

Cinematographer Piyush Shah said perspective generates reaction in cinema and a majority of films still use single point perspective. That’s because the guideline for most filmmakers is the frame, as opposed to the moment, a product of space-time. “Very rarely does a filmmaker engage in a multi-point perspective,” he said.

Shah discussed how Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane is a good example of the use of forced perspective where the foreground object is very large and the background object is small. “Through the movie, Welles defined the inner space of a person,” he pointed out.

However, Shah also noted that there are some filmmakers who moved away from the tradition of the European single-point perspective and tried to create their own dialogue with the Western concept of perspective. They have introduced the multi-point perspective in their works by deflecting away from perspective.

“One example is Japanese filmmaker Yasujir Ozu. His films are always shot from ground level. Ozu deflects from the eye level perspective by taking the camera down and looking at the world from there,” he maintained.

Raza Foundation’s Art Dialogues series features expert practitioners from the world of ideas, literature, visual arts, performing arts and various other disciplines. The Foundation, set up by the late artist S.H. Raza, provides support and platforms for various arts, publications and fellowships, especially aimed at young talent.

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