American artist Kurt Wenner, 52, invented 3-D pavement art in Rome in 1982, after a stint as a scientific illustrator for NASA. The 9x9m ‘A Millionaire’s Life’ (pictured) is currently painted onto the floor of the departures hall of Terminal 3 at Changi Airport as part of the ‘Be A Changi Millionaire’ prize draw. Wenner tells us about the process behind his piece
First published on 28 Jun 2012. Updated on 28 Jun 2012.
How long did this take you?
I spent about 70 hours on the design and the geometry of the piece, and about 200 hours executing the colour version.
Can you tell us about the process of making it?
The designs start with the geometry. In order to include real people into the illusion, I need to measure everything in the work so that the sizes are consistently full scale. The artwork is done in pastels, but I must do many drawings for the work. When all the artwork was scanned and composited, the final file size was about six gigabytes. The final piece is produced on a canvas and is fairly durable, so that the public may sit on it and pose. This is not possible with an original pastel.
What are your thoughts on the piece now?
The production of the piece was extremely high quality and the installation was flawless. I was very happy to see how successfully it turned out. I actually cannot really ‘see’ the piece or the optical effect it has until it is produced in full scale and installed, so it is always a bit of a surprise even for me.
How did you become a 3-D artist in the first place?
The three-dimensional street painting is my own invention. I created it by studying a type of anamorphism that existed in the 17th century. For several decades artists designed large works to be seen from one specific point of view. I was invited to climb the scaffolding in several churches to see the frescoes up close during the restorations. I even touched the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
On some of the baroque ceilings I noticed that the figures were elongated to appear normal from the ground. I was aware that my street paintings were subject to similar viewing circumstances – people looked at the work from an angle rather than straight on. I started creating my particular perspective geometry by adjusting the proportions of the painted forms to accommodate the viewpoints of the spectators standing at the base of the work. Unlike traditional anamorphic compositions, such as church ceilings, the viewing angles were very wide, so I also use a fisheye lens to document the compositions.
My own geometry is different from the 17th-century works, and I have not published it. It combines a logical use of linear perspective with a projection outward from the human eye. Other artists who emulate the 3-D pavement works use a more traditional geometry called quadratura that does not involve such complicated calculations. They don’t understand my geometry is unique.
‘A Millionaire’s Life’ is at Changi Airport T3 until 11 Nov. For more, see millionaire.changiairport.com.