July 13, 2012 – January 20, 2013
Off-site at Yaletown-Roundhouse Station
Nicolas Sassoon’s new commission WAVES is part of his ongoing body of work using Moiré patterns – a visual blur inadvertently discovered by Swiss photographer Ernst Moiré – whereby two images are overlaid to create a third ‘plane’. The resulting optical effect causes the eye to see movement where there is none.
The artist’s concern with visually vibrating patterns stems from his interest in the various factors relating to a computer screen, a matrix display with inherent limitations of depth, detail and colour. Sassoon uses such considerations – restrained palette and individual pixels – as the parameters to make a series of hypnotic animations specifically designed to be seen on such displays. Avoidance of smooth gradients instead leans toward the hard-edged, grids and lines creating complex configurations that test the screen itself in its technological ability to process and render such information accurately.
Sassoon is drawn to early computer graphics because of their strong physicality articulated via limited means. For example, the colour grey was originally made by placing white and black pixels next to each other, varying their density to create the desired shade. Even though the process effectively produced a variety of tone the isolated white or black pixels remained visible, revealing themselves as a vibrating image of squares and lines, and thus creating an accidental field of movement. For Sassoon such unintentional effects provide the basis for his own abstract arrangements using similar base elements as a means to represent complex forms.
The Moiré pattern designed for the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station is formed by the physical layering of a symmetrical configuration of vertical, curved black lines on top of a coloured pixelated background. With no focal point the mural is activated by the movement of the viewer. As commuters pass by the two overlapping planes, horizontal waves appear to undulate rhythmically across the image surface. Initially disorientating, sustained viewing creates an immersive effect, altering our usual encounter with the entrance of the station, notionally erasing its glass side as if to reveal another dimension.
Sassoon’s abstractions are rooted in the ‘real’, always based in some representational form, their movement reminiscent of nature and tied to the landscape. As one image plane interferes with the other, waves, clouds scudding across the sky, a field of grass blowing in the wind or other meteorological and atmospheric occurrences are suggested. Virtual graphics are transformed into physical manifestations, pixel-generated movements translated into architectural interventions. We are momentarily transported.