Gobyn / From Deception to Insight

From Deception to Insight The Trompe L’oeil as a Critical Visual Strategy

Author: Ritsart Gobyn, LUCA School of Arts – KU Leuven

Supervisor: Tom Van Imschoot, Dr., LUCA School of Arts – KU Leuven; Thierry Lagrange, Prof. dr., KU Leuven

Research stage: PhD-research, late stage

Category: Paper


Trompe l’oeil easel painting used to be a (self)critical painterly strategy in the 17th century, but faded to the background in the 20th century. With this design driven research I investigate what critical potential trompe l’oeil painting still has in our contemporary visual culture, where illusion is more present than ever in new media, such as 3D- and 4D-cinema, AI, VR, deep fake video’s etc.

Influenced by the 17th century trompe l’oeil painter Cornelius Gijsbrechts I developed new ways to stage a form of unfinishedness by emphasizing the creation process, both in the paintings itself and in the exhibition context they are presented.

I conclude that the trompe l’oeil still has a strong potential to activate doubt in the spectators and that this doubt moves them to look differently, to reflect on what and how they perceive things, to slow down the gaze, in other words: to evoke a critical state of mind.

Keywords: Trompe l’oeil, Painting, Visual illusion, Contemporary visual culture, Criticality